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Way Beyond

Chapter Text

"You have to pay attention. Okay? Tony? You listening?”

 

“Uh huh.” The murmured affirmation rose from beneath the blue 2013 Audi A3, a project that had completely taken over the garage. Peter had gotten it for his sixteenth birthday. Against the teenager’s pleas and assurances, Tony was currently installing extra measure of protection–a tracker, EMP signal phasing, fuel rerouting, even improvements on the vehicles structural integrity. Plus, a wicked GPS and satellite radio connection.

 

Pepper strode to where Tony’s feet foked out from underneath the Audi, her heels clicking steadily against the smooth cement. He didn’t even need to see his wife to know that her arms were crossed. “Tony, listen to me. This isn’t an SI Board meeting. You can’t just play Angry Birds on your phone the whole time.”

 

“Angry Birds? That’s so...so 2010. Maybe something more...relevant? How about that one Peter keeps complaining about–"

 

“You know what I’m saying, Tony. You can’t blow this one off.”

 

Any humor that had lingered in the air evaporated. Tony rolled out from under the Audi, one hand gripping the bumper and the other easily curled around. “Don’t you think I know that, Pep? Of all people, I should know how important this is. Finally getting the chance to fix my mistakes.”

 

“This isn’t your fault. At least you stayed around to try to fix your mistakes.”

 

“Cap and the others would have too, if those bastards had given them the chance.”

 

A beat.

 

“I’ll pay attention. Promise. But don’t be so sure that I’ll be nice. They might be presidents and the board of the U.N., but they don’t really command my respect.”

 

Pepper smiled softly before kissing Tony’s nose. “Okay. Go save the world.”

 

“Mr. Stark, would you please remove your feet from the table?”

 

Tony rolled his eyes and pushed his shoes against the edge of the glass table, pushing his rolling chair back and jumping to his feet.

 

“That’s Article One wrapped up, right?”

 

“Just about. It should pass through the Standing Committee, except for section four. My concern obviously stands with the lack of repercussion for those currently convicted of treason . I’m sure if Ross were with us, he’d agree that the Rogues shouldn’t be allowed to get off scot-free after causing this mess–”

 

Tony saw red for a split second before breathing in deeply. He quirked a brow and scratched behind his ear. “Uh, I’m sorry. I could have sworn you were just pinning this mess on Steve Rogers and his comrades?” Tony made eye contact with the offending politician, pacing around the table with his hands shoved deep in the pockets of his suit. “They didn’t cause anything. Actually, as far as I’m concerned, everyone in this room, the U.S. government in particular, is accountable for driving away half the Avengers out of fear before we could actually discuss what we were signing. You already know that there are several sections of this bill of which I certainly do not approve, and somehow you pieces of shit thought it would be acceptable to give us two days to read and evaluate the document before threatening to uproot our lives.”

 

The room was dead silent for a minute before it fell into a small uproar.

 

“It’s what was best at the time. The UN was asking for quick action, we didn’t have time to wait long enough for red tape to set in.”

 

“Quick action is only necessary in cases of emergency. Writing out the rest of someone’s life should have a little more time out into it, dontcha think?”

 

“Only the guilty run, Stark.”

 

“They we’re running because of what you were threatening! For God’s sake, even T’Challa can see that Barnes was a victim! He’s offering the guy sanctuary!”

 

“Barnes was never an official Avenger. His retirement in Wakanda is in accordance with–”

 

“And what about Maximoff, huh? She caused less collateral then all of us and she still gets the most shit. You threatened to drop a nuke on New York and still have the nerve to attack her for knocking down a few buildings while saving the world that you again and again fail to protect?”

 

“Mr. Stark?”

 

“And Steve! The literal embodiment of justice and peace ran away from you because of your corruption. I can not believe you bastards –”

 

“Mr. Stark!”

 

What ?”

 

“A call for you, sir.” His eyes landed on the sleek iPhone inthe assistant’s hand.

 

“Who?”

 

“A May Parker.”

 

Tony froze.

 

“Give me the phone. Give me–” The floundering assistant practically shoved the phone into his hands and backed away.

 

“Miss Parker?”

 

“Tony. I’ve been trying to call you for an hour. Your damned secretary kept telling me that you weren’t available, and now I hear that you’ve requested that your personal phone reject all calls? You get your ass here right now or I swear to God you’ll never see Peter again.”

 

Tony could barely choke out a response. “I am so sorry, ma’am. We were in a meeting–”

 

“Don’t give me your excuses, Stark. Just get your ass here.”

 

“What’s wrong? What’s going on?”

 

“It’s Peter. I–They–” May swallowed and continued, her voice wobbling. “I thought you grounded him.”

 

“I did. I was very clear with him. What happened? Did he break it?”

 

“I just got home from my night shift. He’s not home and his phone is on the table and it doesn’t even look like he came home after school yesterday and gods Tony I just don’t know what happened–”

 

Tony felt detached for a second, the words washing over him like water. His breath caught in his throat. Blood pounded behind his eyes. Peter was–

 

He unfroze and frantically moved to his seat, collecting the scattered papers into a pile “I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”

 

“Make it ten.” May snapped.

 

Click.

 

Tony closed his eyes and allowed himself to feel panic for a split second before clamping down on himself. This was no time to lose it. He lowered the phone from his ear and tossed it back to the assistant.

 

“Wipe all traces of that call, will you? Sorry, kids, gotta jet.”

 

With that, Tony grabbed his papers and left, paying no attention to the room of stunned politicians he was leaving behind.


The Iron Man suit was fast, but not fast enough. Seventeen minutes had gone by before Tony was outside of the Parkers’ apartment, knocking frantically. The door swung open, revealing a sneering May, her tired eyes clouded.

 

“Get in,” she snarled. Tony winced and started to pray that when all of this was over, he would still be allowed to see Peter. He stumbled into the apartment and was hit by the smell of dust and booze. He glanced at May again. Maybe her eyes were clouded with something more than worry and exhaustion.

 

“Something interesting?”

 

Tony gestured to the bottles littering the counter and raised a brow. “What’s all this?”

 

May faltered before shoving her hands in the pockets of her bathrobe. “He’s missing, Tony. It hasn’t been easy.”

 

“He’s been missing for half an hour, max. Don’t try to lie to me. It won’t work. What happened, May?”

 

The woman seemed to crumple under Tony’s gaze. She threw her eyes to the floor before looking up again, her stare fiery even through the haze of alcohol and hangover.

 

“It’s not your business. And don’t you dare try to lecture me about alcoholism. I’m pretty sure everyone in this hemisphere knows about your issues .”

 

Tony cringed and looked down, a heavy blanket of shame draping his shoulders. He hadn’t had a drink in over a year now––in fact, he had thrown away his entire supply of alcohol the night he had dropped off the suit in Peter’s room. To hell with it if the pain threatened to swallow him whole at night. If Peter ever needed him, Tony wasn’t going to let alcohol stop him from helping.

 

All of a sudden, Tony was very glad he didn’t have the same access to alcohol as May did.

 

“Where did you see him last?”

 

May pointed to Peter’s door and shuffled off to the living room, collapsing on the couch as soon as she could. Tony pushed open Peter’s door and stepped inside his room. He scanned the space, pushing aside the stab of pain that came from looking at the place Peter built his life around. Nothing looked out of place. Dinosaur hardware was scattered across the desk, despite the glass holographic astral projection tablet sitting right next to it. Old blueprints and essays sat discarded in a pile in one corner. Redox reactions and Chinese tense worksheets sprawled across the bed. The bed was hastily made, threadbare sheets bristling from the half-open window next to it. A blotch of vivid red and inky blue was crammed in the space between the bed and the wall. Tony reached across the bed and pulled out the synthetic fabric of the Spider-Man suit.

 

Dammit, Peter. Sneaking out, and without the suit . Didn’t he understand that the suit was there to protect him? What reason could he possibly have had for not wearing it? Tony chucked the suit to the ground and allowed himself to feel angry for a second before leaning over, plucking the suit off of the–

 

What the hell was on the floor?

 

Tony dropped into a crouch and examined the dried substance staining the cheap carpet. Blood. Of course it was. Tony was already planning on grounding Peter again for wandering when he had already been grounded, but now he was going to ground him a third time. Hiding injuries was strictly against the rules he and May had set up, the rules that established their fragile––their precious ––truce.

 

That kid was going to get an earful . As soon as Tony found him. When Tony found him.


He got the email that night. A gods damned email signed by the Secretary of Defense, the Vice President, and the Secretary of State. Ross. Of course. It had to be Ross. It was always Ross. Peter Parker, identified as Spider-Man, had been arrested on grounds of violation of the Sokovia Accords (thirteen different clauses, apparently). Tony’s involvement was currently undergoing review in order to determine if he was liable for Peter's actions in any way.

 

Tony didn’t sleep that night. There was far too much to do. Get Pepper into back into town from Seoul, extend security to May Parker until further notice, cancel every event he had scheduled for the next two weeks, schedule meeting upon meeting with every single representative who could possibly stand between him and Peter.

 

He only glanced at the old flip phone once–– once ––before crawling into bed at ten ‘til three in the morning two days later, staying awake just long enough to pray for the first time in years.

Chapter Text

When Peter awoke, the world was white.

 

White walls silhouetted with faint shadows, white doors marked with sharp corners, white clothing outlined with rough creases.

 

Even the air seemed white. The harsh light emanating from the sizzling bulbs above his head made the very atmosphere glow abrasively. The constant, subtle buzzing was already grating on his nerves.

 

Back up a minute, Parker.

 

White walls. White doors. White air.

 

Blue clothing.

 

Not white.

 

Blue.

 

Peter twisted his neck to glance down at himself. A pair of blue shorts that definitely did not belong him clung to his hips. Where the hell are my clothes? Peter twisted, and a shiver racked his body. What was he even doing on the ground like this? It was freezing, and this wasn’t even his bedroom–

 

Oh, shit.

 

The memories slammed into Peter.

 

This wasn’t his bedroom. Not even close.

 

Panic surging through him, Peter moved to stand, but was horrified to that his arms refused to shift. He tugged at his limbs again. It didn’t feel like he was drugged, but his arms were definitely locked behind him. Another pull told Peter that it wasn’t just a set of handcuffs, either. His wrists and forearms were locked together, crossed over his back, his palms grappling at his elbows.

 

Somehow, Peter wasn’t surprised to find his legs chained as well. Thick metal cuffs wrapped tightly around his ankles, a cord of fabric lacing between them with about a foot of slack. He squinted at the cord. It looked like some sort of plastic laminate. Cuben fiber, maybe?

 

C’mon, Parker, back on track. What else had he missed? He glanced over everything again. Grey door, grey floor. Three grey walls and one glass one. Blue feet.

 

What?

 

Peter wiggled his toes and winced as he felt the scratchy socks covering his feet shift over his heels and toes, the tiny fibers pulling at his skin. The pads of his feet were sticking to the socks. Peter sighed when he realized that his hands were wrapped in similar gloves; his fingers and palms adhered to it just as easily. Even as Peter tried to relax, he found that his skin’s grip on the fabric wasn’t relenting. The lights were still buzzing away. Peter blinked to rid his vision of the spots going in and out of it. The ground was nothing short of freezing, and the way his arms were pulled behind him was really making his shoulders hurt.

 

Gods, this was uncomfortable.

 

Carefully pulling his knees to his chest, Peter shifted into a sitting position. That at least felt a little better. His arms were no longer being crushed into the freezing metal floor–

 

“Hey, look who’s up!”

 

Peter jolted and looked around wildly. Guards. Where were the guards? His eyes flitted around nervously before catching sight of the speaker.

 

The man in the cell straight across from him.

 

He sat cross legged right in front of the glass wall of his cell, tired grey eyes staring directly at Peter. Dark blond hair messily spiked up over his head. Muscles rippled down his arms and torso. The name “Barton” came to mind. He wore a set of scrubs dyed the same blue as Peter’s socks, dark grey thermals running underneath the sleeves.

 

He looked way warmer than Peter felt.

 

“He’s up?” another voice called. Peter’s head whipped towards the direction the sound came from, his frantic gaze landing on a tall man with dark skin and warm eyes.

 

“He is? Who is he? Do we know him?” It sounded like the speaker was in the cell directly to his left. Not being able to see the person talking bothered him, like an itch he couldn’t scratch.

 

“I don’t recognize him,” a woman said. She sat in the cell to the right of Mister Barton’s. She wore blue straight jacket, pinning her arms to her sides. Auburn hair fell softly down her shoulders, partially concealing a strip of metal that hung around her neck. A small green light blinked dimly, indicating that it was functional. Probably a tracking device of some sort, though Peter honestly thought that the government would have a little more tact than that. Implants would have been a better bet. And besides, why weren’t Mister Barton and the other man wearing a collar as well?

 

With a jolt, Peter realized that he was wearing one, the metal resting heavily on the back of his neck and digging into his collarbones. How hadn’t he noticed before?

 

“I don’t think we know him. He looks young, though,” the woman continued. Wanda Maximoff , his brain supplied. Peter glanced again at the man with warm eyes. Sam Wilson. And the man next to him sounded like...

 

“Oh my gods,” Peter breathed. “You-You’re the guys from the airport. The ones on Captain America’s side.”

 

Mister Barton raised a curious brow. “And you know that how?”

 

“I-It was all over the news for weeks after it happened, but I...I was...You were the one who was arguing with Mister Barnes, even though you guys were on the same side, and you were the one who threw a truck at me, and you said that you were disappointing your kids, and the guy next to me got like fifteen time–”

 

“Threw a truck at you?” Maximoff murmured, her eyes narrowed. “Wait a minute…”

 

“I–”

 

“You’re the spider boy!”

 

“What? No! Spider- Man .”

 

“Oh my gods, it’s Spider-Kid.”

 

“You mean that clown from Germany? What the hell is he doing here?”

 

Peter inhaled sharply. What was he doing here? Mister Stark had told him about the Accords and everything. Had apologized about it too. Peter had been worried that he was going to have to worry about being arrested, on top of everything else going on with Spider-Man and school and May. But Mister Stark had reassured him that the government wasn’t after him.

 

So when he snuck out to patrol while he was grounded, he didn’t think there would be anybody after him.

 

Peter dipped his head, his fringe falling down to shield his eyes. “Aw man, Mister Stark is gonna kill me.”

 

The chatter in the room came to a halt.

 

“Tony Stark?” Mister Wilson asked. “Iron Man?”

 

Peter glanced up, irritation lacing his tone. “Yeah, Tony Stark. What other Stark would I be talking about?”

 

“You were fighting on his side in Germany. What happened? Did he turn you in?”

 

“W-What? No, he would never. He tried really hard to keep me out of here. He kept the government off of my tail for like a whole year, and when they finally found me, he–” Peter swallowed. “This wasn’t him. It was all that jackass Ross–”

 

Peter choked as a white hot pain ignited all through his body. He couldn’t breathe. Every muscle seized as his vision went dark.

 

A blissful numbness coursed through him, only for a burning sensation to angrily pulse through his system. He was vaguely aware that he was on his side. His feet and fingers twitched. His vision swam with spots. Pressure thumped a drum beat behind his eyes. He could make out voices pushing through the sound of rushing blood that was currently assaulting his ears–

 

“–Boy! Spider-Kid! C’mon, man, shake it off, you’re okay.”

 

Peter inhaled sharply, the rough breath tearing at his throat. All at once, his muscles relaxed and his vision cleared, and Peter found the concerned eyes of Mister Wilson.

 

“That’s it! Eyes on me, kid. You with us?”

 

Peter moved his lips absently for a moment, and then–

 

“Oww…”

 

Mister Wilson’s worried grimace melted into a soft smile as he chuckled.

 

“I thought it was a tracker,” Peter croaked out between breaths.

 

Miss Wanda winced. “Sorry. We should have warned you. Every guard in the facility has a remote, including the ones we can’t see.” She nodded to a security camera tucked into the corner of his cell. Ah. So they were being watched. And listened to, apparently.

 

“‘S’alright. No harm done.”

 

Peter wiggled his toes and fingers and righted himself, pulling himself into a standing position in one swift movement. Thank you super abs.

 

He tugged at the restraints encircling his wrists. They held fast, the too-tight cuffs pulling at his skin. And his shoulders were really starting to ache. Gods, why couldn’t they have just put him in a straight jacket like Miss Wanda? It would have been so much more comfortable. Just as Peter was about to make a comment about how it couldn’t get any worse, his stomach growled loudly.

 

“Aw, man…”

 

Mister Ant-Man chuckled in the cell next to him. Mister Barton cracked a smile, while Mister Wilson’s and Miss Wanda’s frowns only deepened, worried creases folding their features.

 

“Enhanced metabolism?” Mister Wilson guessed. Peter nodded glumly.

 

“I don’t suppose food would be likely to come any time soon?”

 

Mister Wilson shook his head. “Sorry, kid, you just missed it.”

 

Mister Barton lay back and stretched his arms over his head. “And what a meal it was. You all know slop is my favorite dish. It’s a shame you missed it, really.”

 

Peter smiled wryly. He could pretend it was funny for now, but gods, it had been a while since he had had enough food to keep him from feeling hungry. He had hoped that being arrested would at least get him landed in a prison where he was guaranteed three meals a day.

 

Oh well. When did he ever get what he wanted?

 

Peter carefully leaned against the corner of his cell and slid down, head resting back against the junction where the two metal walls met.

 

“Mister Ant-Man, sir?” Peter asked tentatively, feeling slightly embarrassed for the address. He tried his best to ignore the startled chuckles that floated between the cells. After a moment of laughter while Peter’s face grew red, Mister Ant-Man drew in a breath.

 

“Yeah, kid?”

 

“What’s your name? I just feel sort of weird thinking of you as Ant-Man…”

 

“Sure thing, kid. Name’s Scott Lang. What about you?”

 

Peter’s eyes flicked up. He had spent so much time protecting his identity that the idea of giving it up so willingly to people he didn’t even know––people who he had fought months prior––made him shiver. But he pushed it down. The government knew. When they got out of here, the rogue Avengers could find out whether Peter wanted them to or not. Besides, Mister Lang had told him his name, and Peter didn’t really want his name to be “kid” while he was here (a small part of him recognized that they would probably call him “kid” anyways, but it was nice to hope).

 

“Peter.”

 

“What? No last name?” Mister Barton asked, his gaze pointed directly at Peter. Peter shifted under him, disgruntled and a little surprised. Peter knew that look. It was the way Flash looked at him when he made fun of him. The question was, why did Mister Barton look like that? Peter ran back through his interactions with the others, trying to figure out what he did to get that look. When he could think of nothing, he became even more worried. What was he not understanding? He must have done something . So why couldn’t he figure out what it was?

 

Peter would have agonized over it for at least the next half hour, but at that moment, the door to the cell block hissed open. Four guards rumbled inside, faces hard and shoulders tense.

 

“What’s the occasion? Did you bring food? Maybe some blankets?” Peter asked, pointedly expressing that he wasn’t scared. At all. Peter didn’t fear anything, and definitely not these guards.

 

Of course, those optimistic thoughts didn’t stop his brain from short circuiting for a minute when they stopped right outside his cell.

 

“You do not speak. You do not fight. You do anything to make this anything other than smooth, you’re only causing trouble for yourself. Understand?”

 

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to say anything.” Peter said innocently.

 

The guard growled and opened the lock mechanisms. Peter made a silent note to watch them open the other cells if he could. Maybe he could work out the lock type, the manufacturers, figure out some way to get out of here.

 

“I’m going to be honest, I don’t think I can go out tonight. I’m not feeling all too great and if you can’t respect that then I don’t think this is going to work out–”

 

“Kid, don’t.” Mister Wilson warned. “It’s not worth it.”

 

The door hissed open, and the four guards stormed in. Peter couldn’t stop himself from shuffling back minutely, even as his mouth ran a mile a minute. Two guards grabbed his shoulders and shoved him into the wall.

 

“Okay, okay, I’m sorry. This one’s kinda on me. I should have let you guys know ahead of time. But to be fair I also think that it’s a reflection of your own skills in charisma if you have to kidnap me to get me to go on a da–”

 

The guard on Peter’s left hit him across the face, the well-aimed punch snapping his head to the right..

 

“The brat just doesn’t know how to shut up. Put it on it now. They’ll do it in the labs anyways.”

 

Peter’s insides went cold. “Labs?”

 

(Tony and May had told him again and again not to look it up, but Peter couldn’t just ignore the articles that advocated for the scientific testing of mutant individuals.)

 

Someone grabbed his chin and pressed hard into his TMJ. Peter winced at the dull pain that blossomed through his bones as he fought to keep his mouth firmly shut. But the fingers pressed harder, and after a few moments of shrieking pain, he couldn’t stop his jaw from relaxing. The second where the pain faded and muscles relaxed was bliss, but before Peter could slam his jaws shut again, there was something pushing into his mouth and a strap wrapping around the back of his neck. He ran his tongue over the material pressed behind his teeth. A thick band of rubber, loosely molded to fill his mouth. Peter bit down experimentally and was surprised to find that his teeth didn’t chomp right through it. Between his super strength and enhanced bone integrity, biting through wood was about as difficult as biting through a slice of bread. And now, here was this little piece of rubber, and Peter could barely bend it in his mouth.

 

“That’ll keep his mouth shut. Let’s get going. The lab’s already behind schedule.”

 

That word again. Lab . Peter definitely didn’t like the sound of that the first time he heard it, and hearing it a second time only made him feel that much worse. A guard started towards the door, and the two guards already on him gripped his shoulders tight and dragged him forwards. Peter could feel the fourth guard walking right behind him, his index finger tapping steadily on the weapon attached to his belt. Peter wished he could tell what it was specifically. Right now, the ability to guess wasn’t helping him to feel better.

 

Peter struggled to move his legs with the chains burdening his range of motion, but the guards didn’t seem to care at all. They only continued to frogmarch him from the room and towards the open elevator. Peter looked back in a frantic attempt to catch a glance of one of the others before he was dragged away for good. He just managed to glimpse Mister Wilson’s worried gaze before a guard grabbed his chin and forced his head forwards. He jolted as a mild shock coursed through his body.

 

The moment they stepped foot inside the elevator, Peter was shoved hard into the wall, and a sack was quickly pushed over his head.

 

The doors shut. The elevator dipped. Peter’s heart sunk a little lower in his chest.

Chapter Text

“How was the cell?”

 

“Hard to tell. He was only in there for about an hour, asleep for most of it.”

 

“Was he shivering at all? Pale?”

 

“No.”

 

“Okay, thank you. Just set him down here. Ansi, make a note to lower the temperature in Subject 7’s room from fifteen degrees celsius to ten.”

 

“From fifteen to ten?”

 

“Confirm.”

 

Peter felt arms hook underneath his, bracing and pulling him off the ground. The backs of his legs knocked against a freezing metal ledge. He jolted as he was sat on the platform, the shorts doing little to protect his sensitive skin from the biting cold. Hands were rotating him, and then pushing him onto his back. His arms uncomfortably as his weight rested once again on his twisted arms. He couldn’t even struggle, his muscles awkwardly strained by the cuffs. The rubber was firmly lodged in his mouth, and the bag over his head was loosely sinched around his neck. Someone grabbed his ankles and pulled. His body slid down the freezing metal. A soft buzz subtly reverberated through the table. Peter was able to recognize electromagnets on his restraint activating, pinning him down to the table. Someone ripped the sack off of his head.

 

Peter wished they hadn’t.

 

Immediately, a soft hand roughly seized his chin and tilted his head back, his neck straining against the collar.

 

“The sooner we can take his AB’s, the sooner he recovers for testing. Let me handle pressure monitors and cameras, and then we’ll break.”

 

A set of fingers pried Peter’s eyelids apart. An enormous part of him wanted to turn his head or fight to shut his eyes, but then he saw tools looming in his vision––metal clamps, needles, plastic lenses––and froze. The very last thing he wanted to do was to cause one of the scientists to make a mistake where his eyes were involved. As he stilled, a lady with burnt red hair and brown eyes floated in front of him.

 

“That’s right, stay still.” Her drawled lilt washed. over him. “Much easier that way. We can’t afford to lose these beauties.” The woman leaned over him with two eye droppers, dropping liquid from both bottles into both eyes with quick precision.

 

“Blink.” Peter did, his eyes watering as the drops burned his eyes. “Eyes shut.” The woman wiped at his eyes with a tissue. As soon as her hand left, Peter opened his eyes back up just in time to see someone hand the metal clamps to the woman. Upon closer inspection, Peter could identify the strange tool as an optical speculum. It was the same tool that Doctor Banner had used when he gave Tony a lasik surgery a few months ago. He tried his hardest to relax as the wire slipped under his eyelids and held his eyes open.

 

“Make sure to breathe.” The woman––Peter was really wishing he knew what to call her––brought a tool close to his right eye. It was made of white and blue plastic, with a blunt end and a digital monitor on the side. She moved it back and forth in front of him, the end coming impossibly close to his eye before stopping and pulling back again.

 

“Right IOP 28. Ocular hypertension unlikely.” She moved to his left eye and did the same thing. “Left IOP 26. Ocular hypertension unlikely.” The woman disappeared for a few moments before returning to Peter’s line of sight wearing a headset that looked like it would be worn by a steampunk cartoon villain. A set of glasses sat on her nose. A dozen other lenses floated around her head.

 

“Look down without moving your head. Don’t move your eyes at all.” Peter did so, fixating his sight on the line where his lower lid met his vision.

 

“Lower.” Peter held back a huff and looked down further, refusing to bring his sight past his eyelid.

 

“Don’t move.”

 

Out of the corner of his eye, a needle emerged. He almost panicked, but fear of interfering with the scientist froze him. She had said, after all, that she needed his eyes intact.

 

A small whimper escaped him when he felt a pinch towards the top of his eyeball. There must have been a numbing agent in one of the eye drops. Peter was certain this would have hurt a lot more, otherwise.

 

“You’re doing fine,” the woman said absently. She withdrew the needle and moved to the other eye. Pinch, wait, withdraw. “Intracomp monitors in place. You can look up now.”

 

Peter fought to blink, his droopy eyes straining against the metal wire. The woman leaned back over him and slid smooth, plastic lenses over his eyes. Contacts. Except, Ned had shown Peter his contact lenses, and Peter was pretty sure that these were way bigger than regular contacts.

 

“Pressure-comp in place. We’re finished up here.” The woman removed the speculum from his eyes, and his eyelids sagged in relief. “Install the other monitors.”

 

Rough hands grabbed his limbs, reaching behind his back to find his wrists. A soft click–

 

Peter could feel subtle buzz of the electromagnet cease the moment it was shut off. After the fraction of a second it took him to realize his arms were free, something animalistic took over him. His arms surged over his head, ripping off the hands trying to hold him down like they were nothing. He grappled at his neck. There had to be a switch, or a lock mechanism, something

 

Peter saw white. The thoughts that had been flying through him halted and diminished. He saw white. Everything was white. Everything felt white. His joints locked. Red pulsed through the soft glow. He could feeling everything and nothing.

 

Peter sucked in a breath. Color returned to his vision, and the pain crippling him sharpened. His skin burned. The tips of his fingers tingled. His eyes were hot and his tongue was numb in his mouth. Something in the back of his head screamed at him. Move. Move. Move. Just as he recovered the fortitude to keep fighting, the screaming became real.

 

“Get him down! Down! The other–”

 

A vibration hummed to quiet life.

 

And just like that, Peter was stretched out on the metal table, extremities secured down. Peter could do little more than look around blindly or wiggle his toes. The cold air brushed against his skin, chilling it where the table didn’t.

 

His restraints whirred. He felt something poking against his skin, something sharp protruding from the five bands of metal encircling his extremities. They pressed forwards, biting edges pressing harder and harder. Peter squeezed his eyes shut. Find a happy place, find a happy place–

 

“I’m sorry I yelled.”

 

“Me too. It wasn’t being fair.”

 

“It’s okay, kid. It’s your job to try to act like a teenager, and it’s my job to worry. If I get a few grey hairs over you staying out past curfew for movie night, I should be celebrating.”

 

The tools tore through his skin, the tissue ripping apart the same way a pencil might rip through a piece of paper.

 

Peter flinched as warm hands touched his arms, squeezing the muscles over his neck and shoulders before moving to his chest and probing at his lightly defined belly. Tears muddied his vision. Gods, he was just so vulnerable . Peter shut his eyes.

 

“Clear muscular regeneration. Samples located over digitorum superficialis, extensor carpi radialis, brachii em, sternocleido, let’s go ahead and take one of his modiolus–”

 

“Who is credited with the invention of the facsimile machine?”

 

“Alexander Bain, patent received May 27, 1834.”

 

“Incorrect. Peter?”

 

Hands rubbed over his legs. “Soleus, gastro, sartorius–”

 

“Alexander Bain, patent received May 27, 1843.”

 

Cold spray. Biting slice. Warm liquid. Searing pain.

 

“That is correct.”

 

“We better skip the marrow for now.” A cotton swab pushed inside his inner cheek, the soft material clinking to his skin as it was pulled back. “Get some skin off of his fingers and toes, palms, and the bottoms of his feet. Make sure to get the labels right.

 

“How deep, ma’am?”

 

“All the way to the bottom of the hypodermis.”

 

“Peter, if you an May need help, I’m sure my mom would help. I mean, you’ve been mooching off of my Netflix for years. A couple meals are nothing compared to that.”

 

“Just the pads of the fingers?”

 

“For God’s sake, did none of you read the planning? Samples from distal, middle, and proximal. Above the distal transverse and over thenar eminence and hypothenar. Ball, instep, heel.”

 

“Nah, it’s cool. The school’s covering two meals for me anyway.”

 

“Peter, that’s only like, a thousand calories. How many did Mister Stark say you needed, again?”

 

“Don’t tell Mister Stark about this.”

 

“Open your hands.”

 

Up until this point, Peter hadn’t realized that his hands were squeezed into tight balls, his toes curled as closely as he could bring them. Why weren’t they just sedating him? It would make this much easier for them. Maybe…

 

Oh. They probably didn’t want to contaminate the samples. In regular medicine, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem, but Peter didn’t know what they were testing for, what they were looking for in him. So no sedatives (which likely meant no anesthesia either, but Peter carefully chose not to think about that).

 

“They’re just punch samples. You are Spider-Man, aren’t you?” Peter hated the sneering tone in the woman’s voice as the name left her mouth. “Surely Spider-Man has dealt with far worse. Or is he so unwilling to get his hands dirty and do some real work that he hasn’t even gotten hurt on the job?”

 

That stung, but Peter knew it wasn’t true. He had gotten hurt plenty of times. But usually he wasn’t being attacked for mysterious scientific purposes. And anyways, shock tended to be one hell of a drug. And Spider-Man was usually still in the position to defend himself. Way different than the situation Peter currently found himself in. He didn’t loosen his hands one bit.

 

The woman grumbled something before sighing and speaking sternly to the other scientists. “This isn’t going to work. If the subject isn’t going to let us take the skin samples, we’re going to need to take one of the BC samples to compensate the time. What was next? Seminal fluid?”

 

Peter’s hands fell open.

 

“That’s what I thought.”




By the time the bag came off of his head, Peter was back in his cell. He was piled into the corner, legs curled up to his chest, eyes staring at the guards walking away from the cell. Fear gripped him.

 

“Spider-Kid? You okay?” It was the man with warm eyes. Mister Wilson.

 

Peter swallowed and exhaled, putting all of his energy into keeping his voice steady, even through the pain lacing every movement. “It’s colder in here.” He dragged his eyes up to meet Mister Wilson’s, and the man gazed back at him sympathetically. The others said nothing, quietly watching the exchange as if they weren’t there at all.

 

“I’m so sorry, kid. When I saw you in Germany, I should have known–”

 

“Should have known what?” Peter’s voice was eerily steady, sharp words daring the man to finish that line of thought. “That Mister Stark would hand me over? Mister Stark would never do that. He wouldn’t–This isn’t on him. But that’s probably the complete opposite of what he’s thinking.” Peter huffed out a tired sigh and tilted his head back to rest against the wall.

 

Mister Wilson’s eyes were sad. “If he didn’t hand you over, how did you end up here?”

 

Peter dropped his eyes to his feet. Shame rolled through him. “I didn’t listen to Mister Stark. He told me that there were people looking for me, and that I needed to stay inside until he could throw them off again. But I thought, you know, maybe it would be safe to go out. Not as Spider-Man, but like, as a civilian.”

 

“Did they come for you?”

 

Peter hummed and shook his head. “More like, I was wandering around the area Spider-Man patrols at the same time authorities were exploring the area. Spider-Man hadn’t made an appearance in weeks, and I probably looked a little suspicious...I dunno, they just connected the dots.”

 

Peter couldn’t see Miss Wanda from the corner of the cell, but he could imagine her narrowing her eyes. “And they just...caught you? Just like that?”

 

Peter winced. “Well, I mean, I probably would have lost them, but then some lady was getting kinda too friendly with this kid, and, I mean, I couldn’t just… He was more important, you know? I-I don’t know, I mean, if I was a real hero like you guys then I probably could have–”

 

“I–Kid, no.” Mister Lang cut in. “Don’t do that to yourself. It makes it harder. And anyways, the law doesn’t get to determine if you’re a superhero. I mean, check out Steve. Considered a fugitive by law, but it doesn’t make him any less of a hero, right? He’ll always be Captain America.”

 

Peter opened his mouth, freezing for a moment to think about what he wanted to say before continuing, his words slicing through the heavy atmosphere. “If you’re going to try and tell me not to beat myself up, maybe you guys should give it a chance too.” It was true. Peter could feel the regret hanging off of them. Wanda was about to protest, but Peter didn’t give her the chance.

 

“Uh, no, don’t try to deny it, okay? It’s pretty obvious. Look, I know there’s a lot that I don’t know and that I don’t have a lot of experience, but whatever went down in Germany? That didn’t happen because of you guys. I mean, it didn’t happen because of Tony either, but the point is, it wasn’t you. It’s the government.”

 

“Did they hurt you?” Clint interrupted, his weary eyes tracing Peter’s form.

 

“I–What?”

 

“Actually, no. Scratch that. They did hurt you. Question is, how badly, and should we be worried?”

 

Peter thought back to the experiments. Needles and hole punches and flesh pinned back–But it was nothing compared to what he feared was coming for him. Peter squeezed his eyes shut and nuzzled his face into his shoulder, cringing away from the thoughts crowding his head. He could remember as they talked about the next set of samples. Bone marrow. Bile. Organ tissue. Responses to pain. Responses to starvation. Reproductive capabilities. What was next? Seminal fluid?

 

A whimper escaped his throat.

 

“Kid?” Mister Wilson shuffled up into a standing position and stepped towards his door. Peter could see the man in his head: arms pensively at his side, brows furrowed, stepping nervously from foot to foot.

 

“I’m okay,” Peter said, not daring to raise his voice above a whisper. He didn’t trust himself to speak any louder. “I’m okay. Just tired. I’m–” His breath caught in his throat as a quiet gasp racked him.

 

“Aw, kid. I’m...Im sorry. It’ll be–We’ll get through it. You have us, okay? You have me and Clint and Wanda and Scott. And we have you. Now, this means that you have to talk to us. About what you need, what you don’t need, what’s bothering you. Is there anything you want to let us know?”

 

Peter shook his head, the skin of his forehead chafing against the metal wall.

 

“Will you wake one of us up if you need anything?”

 

Peter nodded, the last of his tears slipping down his cheeks, his eyes beginning to dry.

 

“Okay. Then try to get some sleep. We’ll wake you up if anything happens. Good night, kid.”

 

Peter was drifting off in seconds, his last thought of the moon and gentle touches that he hoped he would know again.

Chapter Text

Three days.

 

Seventy four hours.

 

Four thousand four hundred and forty minutes.

 

Two hundred sixty six thousand and four hundred seconds.

 

Four hundred and one.

 

Four hundred and two.

 

Four hundred and three.

 

“That’s good, Tony. You’re doing good. Just keep breathing. You’re doing so good.”

 

“Thanks, Pep,” Tony croaked out, his voice wrecked.

 

“You’ve got nothing to thank me for.”

 

Tony sat on the floor, his back propped up against the couch. Pepper sat next to him, her legs tucked up into her chest and her shoulder resting against the couch. She held Tony’s hands in hers.

 

“We’re going to bed.”

 

Tony sighed. “Pepper, you know I can’t–”

 

“Happy and Rhodey have it covered. I already talked to them, they’re both gonna be up all night–”

 

“That’s not fair! I can’t–”

 

Pepper raised her voice, talking right through his interjection. “–keeping an eye on everything that comes in. If there’s a ping on the cameras or an email back or a message from May or a signal from his suit, F.R.I.D.A.Y. will get you up and they’ll make sure, okay? Bruce is asleep on his floor and F.R.I.D.A.Y.’s hooked up to Stephen’s phone. Helen’s got a jet on-call to fly her over. Your wrist bands are on and Rhodey helped me set up the suit in your room. The jet is ready at a moment’s notice if you need to go to D.C. Is there anything else you can think of?”

 

Tony was breathless. What had he done to deserve this woman? This woman who not only had thought of and dealt with every concern that clouded his mind without even asking, but had also managed to stand him up and move him towards the elevator without his noticing.

 

“His medicine. I–Bruce and I haven’t finished synthesizing it, and if we have to operate we can’t just knock him out or hold him down–”

 

“You and Bruce can work more in the morning. I’ll talk to Helen and see if she has any of Steve’s painkillers and if she can ship them over.”

 

Tony missed him. Gods, he missed his kid so bad.

 

“Tony? Is there anything else you can think of?” Pepper asked again, her eyes so sincere and searching.

 

He swallowed as his gaze drifted. He spoke quietly, not trusting the tightness in his throat to keep his voice even. “I want to see his room.”

 

“Okay, that sounds good. Do you want me to go with you or go–”

 

“Come with me?”

 

“Sure.”




Peter’s room was easily the architectural masterpiece Tony was most proud of. He had designed the lobby, the kitchen, the labs, the Avengers Complex, the training room. All of it. But Peter’s would always be the best room he ever designed.

 

The room was relatively small––that is to say, about 1600 square feet, or roughly the size of Peter’s apartment. To one side of the door lay a full sized bed, complete with memory foam pillows and silk sheets. Attached to the wall in front of the bed was a sixty-inch flat screen. It was hooked up to everything Tony could think of: satellite, Roku, F.R.I.D.A.Y., the Internet, and the Tower’s collection of movies and shows. Everything that could possibly be of interest to the kid. Except for the porn. The porn was absolutely, strictly, unequivocally, most definitely blocked.

 

The television was controlled remotely by a keyboard and touchpad, the likes of which rested on Peter’s deep blue duvet. To the left of Peter’s bed was a desk with its own laptop, holo-glass, as Tony had dubbed the technology, and homework. Geez, as if the kid didn’t have enough paperwork spread out at his apartment. On the other side of Peter’s bed, next to the floor-to-ceiling windows, was a bucket of emergency supplies. Web shoots, cartridges, medical supplies, an earpiece, a panic alarm, and at the bottom, a taser with enough power to take down an elephant. Tony had almost put a gun in there with the taser, just in case Peter needed desperate measures, but the uncertainty in the kid’s eyes when he brought it up told Tony everything he needed to know: Peter would never use that gun.

 

To the right of the room was a full bathroom, with a walk in closet connected. A thick, blue pad of memory foam draped over the ornate, marble floor. The grey counters glittered under the soft white light. Tony had decked the bathroom out with everything Peter could possibly need. Charcoal-peppermint facial scrubs. Enormous, fluffy towels spun with creamy white cotton. A blow-dryer with a comb and hair-gel sitting next to it. A razor for when the kid finally started growing stubble. The coconut-scented shampoo and conditioner that Peter denied loving.

 

But next to the bathroom was the real treasure of the room. The lab. A team-effort of Tony, Bruce, Vision, and even Stephen and Helen, to make a birthday present, since Tony had had to bring out the Iron-Spider––what was supposed to be Peter’s Sweet Sixteen present––a few months early for the trip to Titan. The lab was about twenty feet by twenty feet. A modest size, but it was decked out with some of the best tech Tony could get his hands on.

 

The walls, ceiling, and floor were high def screens, with holographic projectors placed in every corner. The holograms were, of course, interactive. The software had every simulation type programmed into it––anything from building an engine to trying out a heart surgery. A drive that automatically generated two back ups sat plugged into the wall by the light switch. A rolling glass board stood to the side. The walls were lined with black top counters for work space. A cup on on the counter near the door held multi-colored dry erase markers for the board, and neon markers for the counters. The cabinets held every measure of beaker, four types of thermometers, an analytical balance and a microbalance, dozens upon dozens of chemical samples. A bookshelf held scratch paper, pencils, rulers, project files and countless textbooks. And of course, the wall-screens defaulted to an enormous periodic table, with the atmospheric conditions flickering right beside it.

 

The kid could work on any project he wanted. If he could think it, he could do it.

 

Gods, the way his eyes had lit up when he first saw the place…

 

But that wasn’t where Tony wanted to go. For now, he sat on the bed. Pepper crouched next to him, pressing her cheek against his knee. Tony reached to the bedside table and opened the drawer. A worn, plastic Iron Man mask, with an elastic strap and chipped paint. The mask was small, like the kind they sold to kids at the Expo every year. Tony figured Peter must have bought it from some tourist shop a few years ago and decided to keep it. He smiled softly. The sentiment that came from the mask hurt. So. Much.

 

He set the mask back in the drawer reached over to the pillow on the opposite side of the bed. On top of it rested several of Peter’s school notebooks. He grabbed all of them in his hand and brought them to sit on his lap. He sorted through them slowly. Gently. The kid loved these notebooks. Took great care of them. At one point, May had mentioned something about how Peter had asked for plastic notebooks for his birthday. Tony had been about ready to cry when he heard it; this brilliant, genius kid, had asked for notebooks that would hold together for the whole year as a treat .

 

It upset Tony, but it helped a lot of other things to make sense. The way the kid obsessively prepared his supplies to the letter before school started ( “Blue is for calc, Mister Stark. Green for bio, red for English, purple for chem. See?” ), how even though organization totally went out the window he strictly savored every piece of lead and every worn eraser.

 

Tony flipped open the math book. Calc AB as a sophomore, BC as a junior, and next year, stats as a senior (Peter had wanted to avoid stats for as long as he could). The kid was just too damn smart. A soup of numbers and letters and marks that would make no sense to anyone but Peter, painting line upon line with notes on composite functions and derivative problems and trig functions. Stray graphing papers were hidden between pages of college-ruled lining. Peter’s illegible scrawl filled every margin. Scratched out work and pi’s that looked like table tops and fours and nines that blurred together. The kid’s handwriting was just so.... Peter .

 

Almost lost between equations was a hasty to-do list: SP layout/APUSH vocab/Raven doc/Tony card/May chores/Suit IRR check.

 

Gods, it would have meant little to Tony a few days ago, but now, Tony could only clutch the notebook against his chest as tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. Pepper rubbed his knee and held his hand, and it kept him grounded. It kept him from floating away. But the pain was as fresh and sharp as ever.

 

Funny, how a few mindless words could resemble a person so much.

 

“He’s gonna be so worried when he gets back,” Tony croaked. “You remember how he was after he got shot?”

 

“You mean when he woke up and found out he missed two days of school? Hard to forget, though I’ve yet to figure out how you managed to lecture him about self-care when you’ve been procrastinating sleep for seventy hours.”

 

Tony loosed an exhausted chuckle and eased onto his feet. “Can’t leave it alone, can you.”

 

Pepper hummed a laugh and bit her lip. “You’re right. I just can’t. C’mon. Let’s go.”

 

Tony leaned into his wife as they shuffled out of the room together. “Thanks, Pep,” he mumbled, exhaustion finally tugging at him.

 

“My pleasure, Tony.”




Sam’s eyes bounced around the cell block, moving from a concerned glance at Spider-Kid to a pointed glare at Wanda’s back.

 

Come on, Wanda, talk to me.

 

After ten minutes of watching Wanda’s curled form breathe through a seemingly peaceful sleep, Sam could feel her poking at the back of his head.

 

‘Sorry. I know that took forever,’ Wanda apologized, shame tinting her mood.

 

‘You have absolutely nothing to apologize for, Sam stated. I’m sorry if I felt pushy. The caution is good. I want you safe. Whatever it takes, I want you to feel safe. We still in the clear?’

 

‘Yeah. You want me to wake the others?’

 

‘No. Let them rest. You’ve seen how tired they’ve been.’

 

Her tired exasperation was clear, even without the ghost of a sigh that projected into Sam’s mind.

 

‘We need to do something.’ Sam barely even had to think it before Wanda was frantically agreeing with him.

 

‘You’re right. I can stand confinement and rude guards, but the marks were really something else. I don’t–Whatever Tony’s motives were in...employing him...we can’t just let him be hurt. If we can find a way to contact Steve, or get Peter to the outside of the Raft, or at least get someone to take that damned gear off him. Twenty-one years of bad neighborhoods and wars and I’ve never seen someone treated so...so…’

 

‘I know,’ Sam assented. ‘ It’s bad. You saw what he did when we asked.’

 

‘It was like we were hurting him.’

 

Sam grimaced. ‘Whatever they’re doing, it’s going to leave scars. Judging by the precautions they’re taking on keeping him under control, I’m gonna go ahead and say that it will be more mental and emotional than physical.’

‘Why would you say that?’

 

‘Think about it. Kid’s probably got enhanced strength, probably speed too. If he’s anything like Steve that’ll include a healing factor and...Aw, shit. Metabolism. The kid’s probably starving.’

 

‘They must know. They have all the research in the world to know about precedents, and I can feel the biomonitors. They have at least half a dozen different monitors hooked up to him. They’ll know. And it sounds like they need him alive.’

 

‘Alive isn’t good enough. Alive is keeled over with a heart that’s about to give out.’

 

‘You know they won’t take him that far,’ Wanda bit back. ‘They need him for something.’

 

Sam shuddered. ‘That almost definitely sounds worse.

 

Wanda deflated a little, but Sam tried to send over hopeful emotions before the connection cut.

 

“Goodnight, Wanda,” he whispered to himself.

Chapter Text

Peter wanted to cry when he woke up. Before he could even open his eyes, the hunger pangs rippling through his body caused him to squeeze them shut. A whimper passed his lips as his gut twisted. Peter quickly bit down on his lip in an effort to silence himself, but the sound had already escaped him.

 

“Kid? Are you up?” Mister Wilson’s voice had him opening his eyes.

 

“Yeah! Yeah, I’m up.” Peter fought the urge to curl in on himself and shifted so he could meet Mister Wilson’s eyes.

 

“Are you good?”

 

“Yeah, all good here. Just, uh, a little hungry.”

 

“Oh yeah? How long since you’ve last eaten?”

 

“Oh, um, they––the Raft people, or the police or whoever arrested me––they fed me on flight over.”

 

“Liar.” Peter swiveled to find Mister Barton, his face pinched in Peter feared was distaste. Distaste at him, or distaste in his lie? “How long has it been? Really?”

 

Peter swallowed, his eyes flicking between Mister Wilson and Mister Barton. “I, uh, I don’t know–”

 

Mister Wilson exhaled an exasperated sigh, shaking his head at the ground. “You have to communicate with us. Okay? I know superheroes don’t really tend to be very good about that, and if you’ve been hanging out with Tony, he’s a real shitty example of communicating and playing with the team–” At the (hopefully) venomous look Peter sent his way, Mister Wilson quickly moves on. “–but whatever you did out there, whatever you tried to deal with on your own or could handle yourself, you can’t do it here. You can’t. It will kill you.”

 

“He’s right, Little Spider. We’ve been keeping each other sane in here. There’s not another way.” Miss Wanda’s voice floated to him from where she was hidden behind the walls of his cell. “When you have nothing left, you’re still going to have us. You need to take advantage of it because this place will eat you whole.”

 

“So, kid.” Mister Lang tried, his voice rough and real . “When was your last meal?”

 

“Probably a day before they brought me in? Maybe two.” The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop himself. No , Peter thought sharply. Talk to them. Listen to them.

 

“Because, see, it was the anniversary of my uncle’s death a few days ago and I mean we were low on money and food regardless, well relatively, anyways, because my metabolism is really fast but the thing was my aunt bought alcohol because she was just really sad about it and I mean I couldn’t really deny her that, you know? I mean I’d probably try to get drunk too except I metabolize it too fast for it to actually do anything, and I mean we still had food that I could actually eat and I did eat snacks because being hungry just kinda sucks but not an actual meal because I was also just sad about it and–” Peter choked on the words about to spill out of his mouth. MJ is mad at me now and Ned thinks she’s right and Tony seemed off the entire week and wouldn’t tell me what was wrong–

 

“Whoa, whoa, remember to breathe, kid,” Mister Wilson said, soft laughter coloring his words, but also concern. “Take a breath. You’re working yourself up. Are you breathing now?”

 

Peter nodded, sweat slipping down his skin. Gods, hunger really was the worst. He squeezed his eyes shut and rolled his shoulders, pressing his cheek against the cool wall.

 

“Are you? You don’t look good.”

 

“I-It’s the hunger. Hot flash. Distract me?”

 

“Yeah. Yeah, sure, we can do that. Wanda? Sokovian language, lesson one, please.”

 

“My pleasure, Sam.”

 

Peter slapped an enthusiastic smile on his face (without much difficulty, really, because, sure, he felt like shit, but learning Sokovian? So cool!) and shuffled to the top right corner of his cell. Really, he should have moved here before. He could see everyone, even Mister Lang!

 

“Do you want to learn, Little Spider?”

 

“Yeah, yeah! That sounds–That would be really cool, Miss Wanda. Thanks.”

 

The genuine smile she gave made it that much easier to ignore the sickness rolling through his body.




They were an hour into the lesson when the guards came.

 

Peter had been learning quickly––not that he was all too surprised. As much as he had griped about Spanish to Mister Stark and May in the past, he had gotten a 5 on the A.P. Spanish Language exam at the end of last year, and was blessedly able to start Mandarin Chinese as a Junior. His intelligence didn’t strictly cut off where science and math ended. They all used the same skills, or that’s what Mister Stark said, anyways.

 

Peter had just strung together his first broken conversation with Mister Lang––he was the easiest to understand because he spoke in a blatantly American accent––when the doors to the cell block hissed open. Peter just about jumped out of his skin. He had been so distracted by the lesson and the nauseous sensations poisoning his senses that he hadn’t even heard the footsteps coming. He pushed himself to the back wall of his cell as quickly as he could–

 

And promptly froze at the subtle scent of flour.

 

He tentatively shuffled forwards, his eyes widening when he saw the trays of food stacked in the guards’ hands.

 

Over-processed white bread, refined to zero nutrition with all of the calories still intact. Tins of mashed fruit, the scent of sour raspberries causing Peter’s nose to scrunch. And there was something else. Sickly sweet, starchy… He tried to pinpoint it. Not from Mister Barton’s, not from Mister Wilson’s, not from the one the second guard was still holding

 

It was coming from the tray currently being set in front of Mis Wanda. The tin of water that smelled so strongly of copper it burned his nose was also the source of the disgusting stench of what Peter knew had to be a drug of some sort.

 

Peter licked his lips, glancing up at the guards and deciding it was safe to speak. “Miss Wanda, your water–”

 

“We know, Little Spider. It’s okay.” Even as the first guard freed one of her arms so she could ea, Miss Wanda gave him another one of those smiles: relaxed, sincere, and loving. “It’s alright.”

 

A tray was set down in front of Mister Lang. Peter perked up and shuffled forwards. He didn’t know how he was going to eat like this, arms and legs strictly bound, but with the way he was feeling, it didn’t really matter.

 

The guards walked closer to his cell–

 

And right past it.

 

Peter faltered, pleas for food ghosts on his lips.

 

“Hold on, assholes, where’s the kid’s food?” Mister Barton barked, his stern voice demanding an explanation.

 

The guards stopped in their tracks and spun around. The first guard turned to Mister Barton. Wow, he really wasn’t happy. Neither of them were. His sixth sense was going crazy.

 

“Subject Seven is not scheduled to receive nourishment.”

 

“What? Why the hell not? That’s ridiculous.” Mister Barton said. His brows were furrowed, his words thick and enunciated. He stuck his jaw out as his tongue pressed against his teeth. Peter knew that look. It was the same look May had gotten when she found out about Spider-Man. Mister Barton was pissed .

 

“Eat. Someone will be in to collect you shortly.”

 

He paused, cold eyes meeting every single person in the room. Peter suppressed a shiver and tried to think through the sudden pounding in his ears.

 

Mister Lang snorted, throwing the guards from their quiet and deadly act and effectively pulling Peter out of his own head. “Well, if you think I’m gonna make the kid watch me eat while his metabolism eats through him, you’re way wrong.” Mister Lang, who was leaning against the left wall of his cell, used the outside of his foot to push the tray under it clattered against the glass wall at the forefront of the cell.

 

It only took a split second before three more trays hit the glass walls.

 

The guards traded a glance, deciding how to react.

 

“A hunger strike. Well, we can’t have that, now can we?”

 

One of the guards lazily unclipped a black box from her belt. Peter eyed it warily. It didn’t look like it could be anything good–

 

He was shaking, bones vibrating as his muscles clenched and contracted. He choked on the cry that was trying to claw its way up his throat. White hot pain crawled down his spine and shot to his fingertips.

 

It took Peter a good ten seconds to realize that the pain was fading. One by one, his muscles relaxed, releasing him from the taut position his body had been forced to hold. He blinked a few times. The world was coming back into focus, and soon enough, he could concentrate enough to hear.

 

“That was only 120 Volts. This thing can kick it up to 400. Wanna try that again?”

 

“No. We’re sorry–” Mister Lang stood slowly, trying to placate them, but Mister Barton wasn’t having it.

 

“Don’t apologize to those bastards,” he spat. “Leave the kid alone. You have no reason–”

 

Peter was shaking. This time, some part of him registered that he was being electrocuted again. When it stopped, he was gasping for breath, struggling to bring air back into his oxygen-starved system.

 

“I have every reason in the world, as long as you keep this up. We can do whatever we want to him.”

 

The silence was deafening. Fear crept into Peter at the guard’s words. They really could do whatever they wanted, couldn’t they? Peter had absolutely no way to defend himself, to defend those around him or back at home.

 

“Eat. Someone will be back for you.”

 

The two guards turned and walked out of the cell block.

 

“I’m so sorry, kid.” Mister Lang was the first to apologize, but suddenly Mister Wilson and Miss Wanda were asking him if he was okay and Mister Barton was staring at him with wide eyes and a mouth that was just a little too slack to be normal and Peter realized that he looked horrified–

 

“It’s okay,” he rasped, coughing on his not-yet-recovered- lungs. “It’s okay. I know you were trying to help. You couldn’t have known they would–”

 

“Of course they would have! Okay? There was no reason to not see–”

 

“I was egging them on and I should have known better than to make them mad–”

 

Peter shivered and shrugged his bare shoulders up to his ears, trying to lessen the onslaught of input. Too many people talking and the lights were buzzing and hurt his eyes and his fingers stung and the starchy sweet of that damned drug–

 

“Peter?” The soft voice Mister Wilson drew Peter back. “It’s okay, kid, we can be quiet now. That was the problem, right? Kid?”

 

Peter stared for a minute before frantically retracing his conversations.

 

“Peter? You okay?”

 

Mister Wilson sighed. “I’m so sorry. I know it must be hard, having a metabolism like that. Steve had to eat four times as much as anyone of us. If it’s anything like yours…”

 

“It’s okay,” Peter assured, a soft smile creeping onto his face, as well as a light blush. “I don’t want you guys to feel bad for eating or anything, ‘cause that...Well, that just kinda sucks. That’s something I understand. But, um, anyways, while we’re eating, do you think we can still practice? This whole language thing is a lot more fun when you’re not doing it for a grade.”

 

Pushing aside the aching in his stomach felt as hard as anything Peter had ever done, but the grateful smiles he received in that moment were worth it.




The next time Peter found himself in the labs, he was terrified . He fought twice as hard this time, twisting and thrashing and screaming. Until a guard thwacked the side of his head with a gun and shoved a gag in his mouth. In the moment Peter was dazed, they pushed him onto his side, forcing his knees up to his chest and his head forward. Electromagnets hummed through him.

 

And just like that, Peter fell limp. The fight left him.

 

“God bless. Is he really submitting?”

 

Peter’s vision blurred with tears. It seemed that he was.

 

“No chit chat. We have a lot to get through today. All of the BC samples. Plus, the lab ordered lacrimation and bile. They’ll be easier for him to produce after we take BC. Team 1 on muscle and tendons. FDP, FDS, achilles, and something from every major muscle group. You’re on the right side. Team 2 is on his back, you’re on marrow extraction and spinal tap. Questions? No? Let’s get to it.”

 

The first thing he felt was a freezing spray. Some sort of disinfectant. Bastards were too pretentious to just use a freaking alcohol wipe. Like a normal group of illegally experimenting scientists.

 

However hard Peter was trying to keep his inner monologue light, it didn’t ease the pain when the first knife slipped into his flesh. He gasped as it twisted, carving out chunks of his muscle. They dropped the samples in labeled trays, which rested on a table that was inches from his face. Peter choked on the hot bile that forced its way up his throat and quickly swallowed it back down, squeezing his eyes shut. He could do this. He could do this.

 

The breath was knocked from his lungs when they cut his skin and scraped at the tendons over his achilles heels and forearms. He started to cry when a needle pierced the skin of his back and pushed into his spine. It burned . He shrieked, mouth agape as they gave it another shove and it slipped between his vertebrae.

 

He was just barely catching his breathing when a drill flickered to life. Peter barely had time to process what that could mean before it tore into his skin, shaking his entire leg as the high wine quickly bit into his bone.

 

This time, he screamed.

 

It took him less than a minute for his body to allow him the mercy of unconsciousness.




It took Peter mere seconds to start crying when his eyes fluttered open. He was still restrained on the table, laying on his back this time.

 

“Damn, is he awake?”

 

“He’s been out more almost half an hour, it’s not surprising.”

 

“He’s not going to like this. Should we sedate him?”

 

“Absolutely not. We can’t contaminate the samples. Let’s finish this up. Watch him, he’ll likely vomit. Be prepared to remove the gag and collect bile and tears. Are we ready?”

 

Murmured assent surrounded him. He felt cold hands around his waist, moving down. Catching the waistband of his shorts, gently lifting and pulling back–

 

No. No no no. Peter startled against his bonds. He was exposed like this. He couldn’t let this happen. Deft fingers started touching him down...down there ...and it was like Peter was possessed. He thrashed with every part of his being. His mind went blank except for the raw terror telling him that he had to get out .

 

But there was just nowhere to go. The hands touching Peter moved at a steady pace. There was a warmth in Peter’s belly as blood rushed to his groin. Hot ears looked from the corners of his eyes, trickling down his temple. Before they could meet his hairline, cold vials were pressed to either side of his head and held there.

 

He sobbed as he tried to hold himself back, tried to quench the sick pleasure pooling in his stomach. It took about five minutes before cold plastic was pressed up against the tip of his phallus. His breath caught in his throat as he lost control.

 

This time, he really did throw up.

 

“Make a note, it took less time for the Subject to vomit than predicted, it was immediate after ejaculation, end note. Someone get that out of his mouth before he chokes.”

 

Someone brutally pushed his head to the side and ripped the rubber gag from his mouth. A metal dish was pushed in front of him, and Peter immediately coughed out the bile trapped in his mouth.

 

“That didn’t take very long. I’m betting diagnostics will ask for more than this. Team 1, take a few more locations for marrow and muscle. Team 2, take some more punch samples of irregular skin tissue. Inside of his mouth, lip, under-eye, and while I’m thinking about it, we better get a fingernail.”

 

Peter’s breathing had quickened beyond control, and he suddenly found himself begging as he floundered in his restraints, his whimpers slurred by pain and exhaustion.

“Stop. Stop. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe– ” Peter choked on the acidic bile poisoning his mouth, swallowed, and gasped. “Please wait. I-I can do better, I’ll comply, I’ll be quiet I’ll do tests for you just please knock me out–

 

Someone pried his jaw open and shoved the rubber back in his mouth. Peter gagged as it rammed the back of his throat. He didn’t stop pleading. He tried so hard to talk to them. The tears just streamed more when he realized they wouldn’t listen.

 

There was a light in his eyes. Pain in his cheek, his hip, his foot. The drill shook him. The electromagnets hummed. They were touching him everywhere–

 

Sensory overload.

 

Lights out.



Chapter Text

Clint knew how to read people. It was his job. It had been for years. Even before S.H.I.E.L.D., even before thinking about going into espionage or even working under the government, it had been his job. Gauging which oaf would be willing to give him a few dollars, evaluating if the guy offering him a quick job was going to try to screw him over. It was necessary for the lifestyle of his childhood. And it disheartened him that the fact hadn’t changed at all over the years.

 

But it was times like this when Clint was glad he was practiced. The guards had brought Peter in a few minutes ago. It took Clint only a few seconds to decide that something was wrong. Really wrong.

 

For one, Peter wasn’t even remotely conscious. He was piled into one of the guard’s arms in a bridal carry. Dark bruises smeared his pale skin shades of blue and green. Clint could see dozens of places on his body where the skin had been cut. The lesions were long and Clint could bet they were deep, but they were already scabbed over, no stitches needed. The only running blood he could see was drizzling from the corner of Pete’s mouth. His hair was soaked with water, goosebumps raising on his skin as it trickled down his arms and torso and soaked into his shorts. Even in unconsciousness, he was shivering and wincing as his muscles twitched.

 

They dumped Peter in the corner of his cell. The second guard dropped a blanket on him.

 

That was the second thing. The guards were acting...well, not gentle, but they normally tossed Peter around like they enjoyed it. And yet, here they were. Carrying Peter, giving the kid a blanket. Not roughing him up, even in unconsciousness. However detached or emotionless they may have been in the actions, they had still done it.

 

It didn’t take long for Peter to stir. His entire body tensed, his face twisted in revulsion. Revulsion? What could have–

 

His face relaxed. His limbs went slack. His eyes opened. Peter’s eyes were open.

 

And glazed over.

 

And vacant.

 

Clint called out, trying to get Peter to focus back in. “Pete? You up?”

 

The kid didn’t even flinch. His unseeing eyes didn’t shift towards Clint, like he had hoped

 

“Come on, kid, I know I can be a jackass, but you gotta talk to me here.”

 

He held the boy in his gaze, willing him to do something. React.

 

“Just a sec, Mister Stark,” Peter murmured. Clint startled at the response, but quickly pushed down his surprise. The boy was clearly in shock right now. He probably wouldn’t even remember saying this to Clint.

 

Ten minutes later, Peter blinked slowly, droopy eyes finally lifting to look around carefully. Tentatively. Clint almost said something, but the words caught in his throat. Something was wrong . Something was really, really wrong.

 

Peter’s soft voice broke the thick silence weighing down the cell block.

 

“Mister Barton?” Peter dragged his wet eyes up to meet Clint’s. “Where’d the others go?”

 

Clint swallowed and forced himself to concentrate. Answer the kid’s question, Clint. “Scott’s talking to some politicians about getting back his retirement deal. Sam’s on shower time. And Wanda’s in interrogation right now.”

 

Peter’s eyes widened a little, worry flushing out a little more of the dull fear residing in his expression. “How come? Is she okay?”

 

“Yeah, kid, she’s fine. They just want to know about Vision and the Mind Stone.”

 

Peter’s eyebrows shot up. “But I–”

 

Shit. Shit. Clint knew that Spider-Man had been in space, had fought Thanos. But the government didn’t. The government thought that Spider-Man had crashed back to Earth when Tony had tried to kick him off of the flying donut. The government wasn’t interested in interrogating him because they didn’t think there was a reason. And the kid was about to blow the fragile lie giving him that protection.

 

As if the government needed another reason to hurt him.

 

“Shh, kiddo. I know. It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything.” Clint willed Peter to make eye contact with him. Peter glanced at him, and in a single moment, Clint could see the small realization click. Peter’s mouth slighted into an “O” shape.

 

“Right. Sorry, Mister Barton.”

 

A pause.

 

“I just feel really bad, you know? If I could–”

 

“Nope, if nothing, kid. You don’t owe her anything. And she can handle herself. And besides, you couldn’t help her anyways, right?”

 

Peter hesitated and cleared his throat. “R-Right.” He gave another wet cough, curling into the wall as the coughs wracked his body. All at once, he seemed to notice the blood congealing over his mouth and chin. He turned into his shoulder and tried to wipe it off.

Not only did Peter succeed in smearing the blood across his cheek, he also managed to knock the blanket off of his torso, revealing prominent ribs and abdominal muscles shivering out of control

 

“No!” Peter gasped softly, freezing for a split second before trying to gently wriggle his way back under the blanket. He looked crestfallen when the blanket only slipped down further.

 

Even Clint, with all he had seen and been through, decided that it was one of the most pathetic things he’d ever witnessed.

 

And something was still wrong .

 

“What happened in there, Peter?”

 

Before Clint could even spit out the word “Peter,” the kid was already answering.

 

Nothing . Just what they did last time, took samples, a few needles, an incision here and there.”

 

Clint sighed softly and rocked where he was seated, bringing an arm to rest on his knee. “Pete–”

 

“They didn’t do anything to me, Clint. Samples and medicines. That’s it. Nothing else happened.” Clint winced at the use of his first name. The kid was really pushing this, wasn’t he. And it didn’t sound like Peter thought Clint would push back.

 

Peter didn’t know Clint very well yet.

 

“Okay, kid, you’re not getting this yet, so let me break it down for you. I’m a world class spy. I’ve been trained to read people who have spent their entire lives learning how to hide their thoughts and emotions. You’re wrong if you think you’re fooling me.”

 

Peter looked up at him through half-lidded eyes and grumbled, “Doesn’t mean I have to tell you anything, though.”

 

Clint exhaled through his nose. “You’re right. You don’t have to tell me anything. But whatever you’re feeling right now, it’s only gonna get worse. Are you ready for that? Are you ready for it to get worse?”

 

Peter ducked his head, contorted features just barely visible from where Clint sat. He choked on a sob. “How can it get worse ?” He gasped softly, trying to get back in control. “It–They–Again! What if they do it again?”

 

“Do what again, Peter?”

 

Another sob wracked his small frame. Gods, the kid really had gotten smaller just over the course of a few days.

 

Clint waited patiently for the kid to regain control of his breathing. Two minutes of quiet gasping passed, and Peter spoke, his head still tucked into his knees.

 

“They wanted samples, right? Samples of different parts of me. Muscle, bone, skin. I’m pretty sure they did a spinal tap too. They didn’t put me under ‘cause they didn’t want to samples contaminated by medicine or chemicals. But they put something in my eyes, I don’t know what though. But, um, that’s off topic, sorry–” Peter hiccuped, quickly swallowing it back down. He paused before going on. “They wanted a sample of–”

 

Peter’s voice closed off. “Sorry. Sorry. Just a sec.” He rubbed his eyes against his kneecaps and tried again. He pushed the words out as fast as he could, like he wanted to be done saying it before he even started the sentence. “They wanted a sample of my seminal fluid.”

 

Clint’s heart dropped to his stomach. They–Gods, really? They had really done that to the kid?

 

“I’m so sorry, Peter.” The kid’s shoulders shook as he nodded against his legs. “You didn’t deserve that. No one could deserve that, least of all you. I–” Clint swallowed, trying to control his wavering voice. Cooper was only a year or three younger than the kid sitting in front of him. If Cooper had– If someone had–

 

Gods.

 

Clint hoped that Tony loved the kid as much as Peter seemed to love him.

 

Peter would need every bit of love the world would offer him.




The minute Wanda walked in, she snapped her gaze to Clint. She knew something was wrong. Of course she knew something was wrong.

 

‘Later.’

 

Wanda narrowed her eyes, but looked away from Clint and turned her gaze to the others. “Gentlemen. How are we this afternoon?”

 

“Oh, still afternoon, is it?” Scott asked. “I wouldn’t be able to tell. I’m pretty sure I aged at least a year in that meeting.”

 

Sam gave Wanda a pointed look. “I’m sure we’re both feeling fine. The real question is, how are you?”

 

The door slid shut, sealing Wanda into her cell. “Just peachy. Gotta love a good old fashioned interrogation.”

 

Peter’s shoulders slumped imperceptibly. Well, imperceptible to any non-super spy.

 

“Hey, Wanda,” Clint drawled. “You up for lesson two of Sokovian?”




They filled the hours with endless conversation. Some of it was pointless and without direction. Scott told stories about Cassie, all the odds and ends to raising a kid. Clint contributed his own points where he could. Clint taught a little sign language. He had been worried initially that Peter would be disheartened that he couldn’t produce communication, but he seemed very happy to learn how to interpret it, picking it up more quickly than Clint could have imagined. Sam told them about the ins and outs of neural chemistry and psychology, what made the brain work and why.

 

It was inevitable that they circle back around to Peter.

 

“You’re keeping up with this real well, aren’t you, kid.” Sam commented, after explaining a rather––in Clint’s opinion–– disgusting aspect of chemical signaling. Clint was disgruntled that the kid seemed to understand every damn word of it , while Sam just seemed impressed.

 

“I–Yeah. It makes sense. Biology is usually trickier for me, but last year I took a class on neurology to clear my second bio credit, so all that is pretty familiar to me.”

 

Scott winced. “Two required bio credits? Neurology as a class? Geez, kid, when I was in college, they only required one bio credit, and no one woulda picked neurology of all subjects. You must be a real go-getter.”

 

Peter laughed nervously, red creeping up his neck. Clint smirked. It was kinda cute to see the kid get flustered over being told he was smart.

 

(He made a note to give Scott a verbal pat on the back for distracting the kid so well.)

 

“What are you studying?”

 

“Uh, I’m not really sure yet?” He laughed again. “I don’t know, engineering and computer science both seem pretty interesting, but I’m better in robotics. Pretty good in chem and physics too, but robotics seems more practical. Especially for our line of work. Mister Stark’s had me working on a lot of stuff for the, um, stuff for different superheroes, and he had me develop some updates for his suits and for F.R.I.D.A.Y. and stuff. We were talking about changing the project direction for SI to go more into biomed tech too, but we haven’t really finished deciding how we want that to look yet. Especially because the interns are super picky about the projects they take on.”

 

A beat.

 

“Is he implying that he can keep up with Tony in the lab?”

 

“I think he is.”

 

“Where the hell did he go to get him so smart?”

 

“I wonder which college was lucky enough to get him.”

 

“Oh, yeah, Pete, where are you going?”

 

“Where am I–What?”

 

“Which college are you attending? Right off the bat, I’d peg you as MIT, but it sounds like you stick around pretty close to New York.”

 

Peter coughed wetly into his shoulder before staring back up at Sam. “NYU.”

 

“You’re bluffing.” Clint had said it before he even realized what he was doing. He felt a little guilty at calling the kid out so bluntly, but the sheepish blush on Peter’s cheeks confirmed Clint’s theory. “Where do you actually go?”

 

Peter squeezed his eyes shut and gave a defeated sigh. “Midtown Tech. It’s a school in Queens.”

 

Midtown Tech. Midtown Tech. Definitely not one of the biggies, but Clint knew he had heard the name somewhere

 

“They’re famous for winning those robotics competitions, the ones Tony judged at.” Sam supplied. “It’s a high school.”

 

The temperature dropped twenty degrees.

 

“So Spider-Kid…” Wanda said slowly, dark anger burning her words, “really is a kid.”

 

“Uh, yeah. Surprise?” Peter said nervously, an uncertain chuckle following his confirmation.

 

We need to get him out of here.

 

“This is worse than I thought,” Scott said hollowly, his eyes trained on his shoes. “You’re not only able to keep up with Tony in the lab, you’re a high schooler who’s able to keep up with Tony in the lab. Who also took neurology last year. Apparently.”

 

Peter giggled, obviously grateful for Scott’s humorous spin on the situation. “So what?” Peter continued, biting his lip in a failed attempt to hide a bashful smile.

 

“So what? So what ?” Clint joined in, so glad to see a little light coming back to Peter’s eyes. “Neurology as a what? Junior?”

 

“Sophomore.”

 

“Gods help us,” Wanda exclaimed, a playful smile dancing on her lips. “We’re trapped in here with another Tony.”

 

“What else have you taken, Pete?” Sam asked, crossing his legs and leaning forwards to rest his forearms on his knees.

 

“Um, well, right now I’m in Calc BC, Stats, Chem, and Lang, which is kinda intense cause they’re all AP classes, but my other classes are pretty easy so it balances. ‘Cause other than those, I have Chinese and my engineering project and then my off.”

 

“Jesus,” Scott muttered. “He really is Tony.”

 

“Did you learn anything interesting in any of those classes?” Wanda asked.

 

“Oh, yeah, for sure! In Lang right now, we’re learning about logical fallacies which is super cool because up until this point when people try to give me an argument, I’ll know that even though their actual logic makes some sense, it doesn’t actually work because what they’re basing it on is kinda irrelevant or not one hundred percent, and I’ve never known how to explain how that makes their argument invalid, right? But logical fallacies is literally how you explain all of that–”

 

Clint huffed a soft sigh of relief. Just a few hours ago Peter was struggling to tell Clint what those damned government bastards were doing to him, splitting apart at the seams because they had–

 

But here he was, rambling excitedly about what he was learning in school. He had been ripped from his home and hurt. He could barely move and was shuddering with hunger pangs and chills. He was going through turmoil that would have broken anyone else. And he was explaining how awesome logical fallacies were to a bunch of intimidating rogues in a prison underneath the ocean. Peter was stronger than Clint could have ever expected.

 

Clint had hope for the kid, but he didn’t worry any less. They needed to get him out before Peter wandered to a place he couldn’t come back from.



Chapter Text

They waited one week. An entire week of Peter disappearing off into that elevator and coming back more haggard and worn down every time. Clint seemed to know the most about what happened to Peter behind closed doors, but Sam couldn’t figure out if it was because Peter opened up to him the most or because Clint was a spy. Probably a little of both, he supposed. Whatever it was, Clint hadn’t been willing to share. So when twelve hours came and went and no one had come to pick the kid up, Sam had nearly cried with joy. Then a yelp escaped Peter, and every head snapped towards him.

 

“Pete? What’s wrong? Did you hurt something?”

 

Peter sucked in a choked breath. “The cuffs. There’s a needle. It just–Oh, gods .”

 

“Talk to us, kiddo.” Clint said. “What’s going on?”

 

“It just put something in my system and now I–” A groan left him. “I feel really sick, Mister Barton. Oh gods, I feel really sick.”

 

Peter pushed himself onto his knees and leaned over. His entire shape seemed to heave, thin shoulders rising and falling as his body struggled to vomit. After a minute, Peter finally gagged and coughed up black liquid into the corner of his cell.

 

“Oh my gods,” Sam muttered. “What the hell did they do to you, kid?”

 

Peter did his best to clean his mouth out by spitting, the grey remains trailing down his chin. He collapsed against the wall and rubbed his mouth against his shoulder.

 

“That’s what they’ve been feeding me. I didn’t know it looked like that, though.”

 

“You didn’t know? What, you didn’t see it?” Sam asked.

 

Peter shrugged. “Didn’t get the chance. They used a tube, so I didn’t really...yeah.”

 

Clint’s face grew a little bit darker. “They force fed you?”

 

“W-Well, they weren’t about to trust me enough to release my arms. Besides, is it really force feeding if I wanted to– Oh, shit –”

 

Peter keeled over again and retched, the last bits of black bile and stomach acid forcing their way up his throat and onto the ground. He sat back again, eyes fluttering shut. “At least it feels better once I actually throw up,” he murmured.

 

“I’m so sorry, kid.”

 

Peter gave a breathy laugh. “You guys have been saying that a lot lately.” The blood drained from his face. He leaned back over, his breathing heavy and ragged as he waited.

 

It didn’t come.

 

“C’mon, you got this, just–” Peter shut his eyes and lurched forwards, urging himself to vomit. He choked as his stomach clenched, but nothing came up. Peter struggled to drag in a breath.

 

For the next ten minutes, Peter was stuck on the ground, dry heaving until tears rolled down his face. Eventually, he gave up and curled back up against the wall.

 

“Why can’t I...I can’t throw up! I can’t–” The discomfort drew a whine from Peter, and soon the kid was reduced to a whimpering mess in the corner of his cell.

 

“We don’t know what that toxin is,” Scott muttered lowly. “What’s their game? Pulling this shit while Peter’s out of their custody?”

 

“He’s right,” Wanda assented. “Everything else has seemed more or less experimental, but this?”

 

Clint shook his head. “No, see, that’s not true. What they’ve done…” He swallowed. “At face value, yes, but the experiments have been conducted in a way meant to make this more painful. There is nothing about this that isn’t intentional.”

 

“What did they do to him, Clint?” Wanda pleaded, her eyes sorrowful. Sam knew that it must have been killing her, not looking inside his or Peter’s head for answers. The moment those guards had thrown Peter in his cell for the first time, she had turned into a worried sister. No matter the issues on privacy, Wanda felt like she needed to know.

 

“They just...They just...They hurt him! In a lot of ways. In every way. I don’t know. It was bad. When they brought him back after last week, he was catatonic for half an hour. He couldn’t even hear me, for the most part, and when he could, he started talking to me like I was Stark. He had no idea where he was. Considering what they did, I’m surprised the kid’s even as functional as he is. I’ve met a few survivors in my day, and none of them were able to deal with it as well as he seems to be. Which actually makes me more worried.”

 

“Compartmentalizing,” Sam supplied. “You think he’s not coping with...whatever this event was?”

 

Clint was quiet.

 

Sam sighed. “Man, I can’t help you out if you don’t tell me what happened.”

 

“It’s not that I don’t want to, trust me, I know it would be best, but every time I bring up the idea of telling you guys he shuts down. Man, he just shuts down. I think he wishes that he hadn’t told me, either. He gets...well, embarrassed.”

 

‘Wanda, private link.’

 

Sam felt a connection branch between him and Clint.

 

‘It’s just you and me in here. Kid doesn’t even have to know that I know, but I’ll be able to help him.’

 

Sam didn’t need a mental link to know how hesitant Clint was feeling.

 

‘I don’t want to betray the kid’s trust. He’s never explicitly said it but I know that he told me in confidence.’

 

‘What he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. I’d just walk you through ways to help him.’

 

Clint grumbled something uncomplimentary aloud and scuffed his foot against the ground.

 

‘As soon as we get out of here, Tony will throw some shrink at the kid and he’ll be fine. We don’t need to do this.’

 

‘That’s assuming that we ever actually get out. What if we don’t? What if they take us away from him and he’s left with no friends and no way to cope? What if we were to give him a little direction now while we still can?’

 

‘Jesus, Sam, leave it alone. That’s not how we need to be thinking right now. Optimism and all that shit. Look, I’m not gonna take advantage of the kid’s trust like that. We done here?’

 

‘Sure.’

 

Clint withdrew from the link, and Sam’s connection to him snapped shut.




They waited until Peter was feeling better, until that stupid drug had more or less worn off. A guard had come to take Scott, presumably to further negotiate his freedom. As soon as he was out of his cell, Wanda released a wave of exhaustion, her red tendrils visibly dancing around her friends and finding the guards. They shot through the ceilings and walls, presumably reaching out to as many Raft personnel as possible. Wanda cried out as her collar electrocuted her in response, but she continued to push her magic as far as she could.

 

Scott acted fast, lifting his guard’s limp body onto his shoulders and dragging him over to Wanda’s cell. He struggled to maneuver the guard’s right thumb and left eye over the biometric scanners; it really was inconvenient that they had to be scanned simultaneously. Watching Scott crouch with a bad guy draped over his back would have been funny in any other situation, but Sam was stressed. He glanced at the elevator every other second, paranoia consuming him. He felt like a train of guards was going to burst through those doors any second. It didn’t help that every second Scott spent opening the door was another second that Wanda was in pain.

 

“How close am I with the eye?” Scott asked, clearly straining underneath the weight of the guard.

 

“An inch and a half higher,” Sam instructed. Scott groaned and pushed the guard up a little. After a second, the cell door slid open. Scott rushed inside and ripped the velcro of Wanda’s collar, gently and swiftly removing the electrical prongs from the sore wound in her neck. He viciously chucked the device into the corner of the cell before turning back to Wanda. The girl was collapsed on her side. Her eyes were wide with relief, her breaths soft and deep.

 

“C’mon, Wanda, we gotta go. Can you sit up for me?” Scott supported her torso and helped her to sit up. He immediately went to work on the straight jacket. In under a minute, she was loose. Despite the reeling after-pains she must have been feeling, Wanda wasted no time in clambering to her feet and running outside of her cell.

 

Red tendrils coiled around the guards and maneuvered them each to unlock the other cells. As soon as the other three doors slid open, Wanda heaved against the wall, clearly exhausted. Red energy still crackled in the air, and Sam figured that she was still working to keep the guards under. Gods, she must have been insanely strong to keep it up like this. Hopefully the guards would stay under long enough for them to actually figure out how to escape, but considering how many guards Wanda was probably putting to sleep, it was a long shot.

 

But they sure as hell were gonna try.

 

“Get Pete up. How is he doing?”

 

Clint glanced at Sam, the spiderling collapsed in his arms. “Not good. He’s barely coherent. I can’t tell if they’re still pumping that toxin into him. I can’t find the injection site under these damned cuffs. There’s no edge or anything. They literally welded this stuff together.”

 

“We need him to get through the systems

 

“Here.” Wanda rushed forwards and wrapped her hands around Peter’s wrists. “Let me check.”

 

Wanda shut her eyes. Her irises glowed red through her eyelids as she inspected the cuffs.

 

“They’re adamantium. I won’t be able to bend it. None of the machinery installed is to unclasp the cuffs, but I think I can at least shut down the IV thing.”

 

Red crackled through the cuffs. A soft whir was audible, and all at once, Peter’s body seemed to relax. But as Peter began to stir, Wanda seemed to falter.  Sam rushed to her side and wrapped his arms around her to steady her.

 

Sam pressed a hand to her forehead.

 

“You’re warm. What’s going on?”

 

“They’re fighting me. They’re conscious on some level. Sorry, it’s been a while since I’ve done this.”

 

“Don’t apologize. You’re doing so good. Just keep it up as long as you can, and we’ll figure out everything that comes after. Clint, pick him up. We gotta go.” Sam watched Scott pat down the guards, coming up with two guns and a set of keys. He scrambled into the elevator with the rest of them.

 

“Which floor?” Scott asked urgently.

 

“The Raft is submersible, so if we want to get off of this thing then we need to get to the bridge.” Sam glanced over the buttons. At first glance, it looked like they only needed a keycard to activate the elevator, but Sam knew better. At the Avengers Tower (he still winced at remembering the name), Tony had fingerprint scanners in the buttons. Ross wouldn’t be caught dead having security that was more lenient than Stark’s.

 

“Scott, grab a guard. Wanda needs to focus.”

 

Scott shoved a gun into Clint’s waistband and handed the other to Sam before running out to retrieve the closest body.

 

There were only four floors on the raft. Right now they were on four, a fact they knew from being constantly trafficked through this elevator. It also happened to be the lowest floor. “Do we wanna try three first and work our way up?” Sam wondered aloud. “They take us there for showering and washing up and shit, but they wouldn’t just have an entire floor dedicated to that, right?”

 

The kid must have said something, because a second later, Clint was whispering reassurances to him.

 

“I know, don’t worry, we won’t. We trust you.” Clint looked up at Sam. “It’s not three. That’s where they take Pete, and he says that their, uh, “experimental division” takes up pretty much the entire floor.”

 

Scott stumbled back into the elevator with a guard once draped over his back.

 

“My money’s on two. It’s the safest place for controls.”

 

Sam considered it, trying to trace Scott’s line of reasoning faster than it could be explained verbally. It was farther away from the prisoners, but not so vulnerable to attacks near the surface. Plus, it would be natural to assume that the bridge would be on the highest level, so it would only be natural for the designers to go outside of that.

 

“I like it. Floor two it is.” Sam swiped the key card, grabbed the guard’s thumb, and smashed it against the button. The button flickered green and the elevator began to move. “How we feeling, Wanda?”

 

“Everyone is still under. They’re fighting me, but now that I’m not trying to move people it’s easier. We can make this work.”

 

They sat in a blissful silence as the elevator steadily rose, only broken as Peter began to move around.

 

“Hey, kiddo. You waking up a little?”

 

Peter murmured something urgently, but it was lost against Clint’s chest.

 

“No, Pete, it’s okay. We’re getting you out of here. This is gonna work.”

 

This time, Sam could hear Peter.

 

“No, there’s something wrong, I’m telling you. In the walls. It’s in the walls.”

 

Clint glanced up at Sam. His question was clear. Anything that could be in the walls?

 

“Wanda? Can you look around?”

 

The glow in Wanda’s eyes intensified. “Oh, shit. He’s right. There’s some sort of mechanism, it’s gonna– Shit .”

 

White clouds of gas began to leak from the cracks of the elevator doors.

 

“Cover your mouths and noses.” Sam lifted his own shirt to try and filter out the gas, but already he could feel himself becoming dizzy. He slammed his fist against the “open door” button, but it didn’t respond.

 

“We’re locked in. Wanda...Wanda, forget the sleep, try to stop the thing...like the kid’s…”

 

Sam glanced back at Wanda through lidded eyes, only to see that she was already limp on the floor of the elevator. Clint began to tremble under Peter’s weight and slowly sank to the ground.

 

With the few seconds of consciousness Sam knew he had left, he prayed to every deity he could think of that it wouldn’t be worse when they woke up.



Chapter Text

Weak sobs tore from Tony’s throat. He was curled on his side on the floor of his kitchen. Clutched in one hand was a shot glass, lingering drops of whiskey falling over the back of his hand.

 

He had broken his promise. He had broken.

 

Tony had stopped drinking because he never wanted his kid to see him like that. He stopped because it could keep him from helping his kid. It was a promise to himself.

 

It was a promise to his child . A promise that he would be better.

 

Was he giving up? Was that what this meant? Had he lost hope that he would see his child again?

 

Tony only cried harder.




Please. Please, I’m begging. Please. Please. You have to help. Please help me. Oh gods, please help me. Please help. I can’t do this on my own. Please–

 

Tony dissolved into tears as his thumb hovered over the “call” button on the old burner phone. “Please.” His thumb hit the button. The phone vibrated in his hand, the soft hums making his skin tingle. Tony pressed it up against his cheek, tears falling down his face as he waited.

 

“Tony? I hope this is good.”

 

Tony could hardly believe his ears.

 

“S-Steve!” He spluttered. Tony bit his lip and scolded himself. He couldn’t be coming off as desperate to Rogers; if Rogers didn’t think he was emotionally in control, he might think that Tony was just overreacting. He could hang up or scoff and roll his eyes and refuse to help, and where would that leave Peter? “I-I...yeah. Steve Rogers. I gotta say, it’s been a while since we talked. Wakanda, was it?”

 

“You obviously didn’t call to chat, Stark. What do you need?”

 

“We have a bit of a situation here. Ross is really going to town on this whole “imprisoning heroes” thing. I honestly thought he would eventually lighten up, especially with the whole infinity thing on our resumés, but he actually took Spider-Man. A few weeks ago.”

 

Steve’s tone was suddenly bitter and gnashing. “Oh, and just because it’s someone who you care about now, we should operate a rescue?”

 

Tony’s lungs constricted, air hissing from his throat almost silently. His tongue pressed against his teeth and tears blurred his vision

 

It took Tony a second to realize in full just how angry he was.

 

“Spider-Man has done absolutely nothing to warrant this. I know none of us are perfect and that’s fine, alright? That’s fine, we’re all allowed to make mistakes, and hell, we’ve made a lot of them, but we’ve still done things that we regret, that other people hold against us and I understand why they would. Spider-Man has–”

 

Against Tony’s will, his diaphragm expanded, drawing in a shaky but needed breath.

 

“–has done every damn thing to deserve our trust. He’s so good, Steve, he’s so good, and they’re going to tear him apart.”

 

“So suddenly inhuman treatment isn’t okay just because he’s a perfect little angel?”

 

Tony squeezed his eyes shut and pressed his palm to his forehead. “No, Steve, you know that’s not what I meant–”

 

“Oh, I know exactly what you meant. You know, Anthony ,” he spat his name like it was a curse, “I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that you broke them out before but you wouldn’t after the war?”

 

“Uh, yeah, okay, too very different situations. For one, Ross wasn’t expecting me to cyberattack the Raft and you know he’d be expecting me–”

 

“How the hell is that any different–”

 

“–and for another, you were physically and mentally fit to operate.”

 

Silence fell.

 

“Of course you’d bring it up.”

 

“How could I not? Cap, it’s a reality. We have to deal with it. I could never break in and out of the Raft by myself. I need someone else to help me.”

 

“Then why the hell call me? I can’t help you. You know that.”

 

Tony swallowed, trying to work up the courage to ask. Steve hadn’t been willing before but maybe with an innocent life on the line, and maybe now that Tony was volunteering to help...

 

For better or for worse, Steve worked it out in the seconds Tony spent trying to open his mouth.

 

“No. Not in a million years.”

 

“Steve, please! He’s the perfect man for an operation like this. We could get them all out. Think about it! This is exactly what you were asking of me before, except this time I’m in.”

 

A tinny growl rumbled the cheap plastic of the phone. “And the only reason you were out last time is because you didn’t care about who was being hurt. You’re “in” this time because you think I’m willing to sacrifice something like that. It’s going to take a lot more for me to put him on the line than you asking nicely. Look, Anthony.”

 

An exasperated sigh left Steve, and Tony could practically see him furrowing his brows, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose.

 

“I’m sorry about your sidekick. Gods know he doesn’t deserve to be treated the way we both know he is right now, but I can’t just give you what I love because you want it. You’re not entitled to that, Anthony, even if you saved everything. After the war, I thought that you would be better, that we would get along again. But you didn’t change. You won’t put everyone else’s needs in front of your own. And that’s fine. You’re not Howard, and you don’t want to be Howard. That’s your decision, and it will come back to bite you. I’ve accepted that you’re not as good as your father, but that doesn’t mean I have to deal with it either.”

 

Tony was speechless. Minute tremors racked his body.

 

“I’m gonna give you the same advice you gave me: work the politics. Get him out legally. The others, too, if you can, but I understand that you have your priorities, and this Spider-Man probably isn’t as tough as them.”

 

Resentment coursed through Tony. How dare Rogers call Peter weak? Having seen what he went through during the war, hearing the stories from the Soul Stone (damn kid hadn’t taken the mask off, even in death), and still without even really knowing the kid?

 

“You’re a politician, Anthony. Make it work.” A pause. “I have to go. Keep me updated. Or don’t. I know you’ll do what you want to.”

 

Click.




Steve dropped the phone to his side as casually as he could as footsteps thumped behind him.

 

“Who was that?”

 

The blond soldier threw his head back nonchalantly to glance at his best friend. “Anthony. He was checking in. Wanted to make sure the prosthetics are working alright.”

 

“And are they?”

 

Steve grimaced. “They’re just hard to get used to.”

 

Bucky chuckled knowingly. “Don’t I know it. Let’s get you to Shuri, see what we can do about those fittings.”

 

“Help me up?”

 

Bucky gripped Steve under his arms and lifted him to his feet, making sure to leave a little weight for Steve to carry himself. Steve groaned, trying to get his vibranium knees to respond the way he wished they would. The comforting weight of Bucky’s hand wrapped around his arm as they walked. A few minutes passed as they made their way through the gorgeous Wakandan gardens, and then–

 

“You know I’d be happy to help Tony.”

 

However indignant Steve felt that Bucky had managed to pick up the conversation, he could never be irritated with Bucky. “Anthony doesn’t deserve your help.”

 

Bucky’s next words were quiet. “I want to decide that for myself, Stevie.”

 

Steve winced inwardly. “I know. I’m sorry. I just… I’m not ready yet. I can’t.”

 

Bucky wrapped an arm around Steve’s shoulders and tapped their heads together. “You won’t lose me.”




Peter’s eyes were wide and teary. He was pinned to the wall by a hand around his throat. A low level electrical current coursed through him, paralyzing his muscles and crippling his ability to struggle. A handgun whipped his cheekbone, and Peter’s head snapped to his right.

 

“Look me in the eyes again. See what happens.”

 

Peter dropped his gaze to the guard’s knees, as far down as he could look with his head pressed up against the wall. Peter could just barely see the amused smirk that crawled across the guard’s lips.

 

“Submissive, now are we?”

 

Red creeped up Peter’s neck and cheeks.

 

“Look, guys, it’s embarrassed!”

 

“If I’m being honest, it looks pretty nice like that. Tell me, what are we supposed to do with this cute little body of yours, hm?” The second guard traced a finger up Peter’s side and neck, eventually dragging it over his lips. Peter whipped his head to the side. The several guards watching chuckled heartily as she effortlessly followed him.

 

“Such a pretty mouth, too.”

 

“Man, we probably shouldn’t. R&D would kill us if we did anything to interfere with the experiments.”

 

“Oh, c’mon. It’s pretty, but I’m sure as hell not about to fuck it. I’m not that gross.”

 

Peter firmly pressed his lips together and tried to think of ways to induce a state of dissociation; anything was better than what he was feeling right now. Before Peter could figure anything out, a fist drove into his vulnerable belly. Peter choked on a pained gasp, and in the split second his lips were parted, a gloved finger shoved into his mouth. His vision tunneled and blackened for a moment, but when the spots cleared, the guard who had stuck his finger in Peter’s mouth was screaming and clutching his hand. Peter blinked a few times and startled when he saw blood spurting to the floor. Half a second later, he noticed the gentle weight resting on his tongue.

 

Peter spit the glove-clad finger to the floor and promptly vomited. Tears streamed down his face. Throughout his parents, Skip, Ben, the Vulture, all of it–– Peter had never felt this disgusted with himself before. So utterly horrified .

 

Peter couldn’t bring himself to even feel annoyed when electricity ripped through his body. He deserved this. He vaguely recognized the familiar feeling of a hand wrapped around his neck. A sense of satisfaction filled him as someone punched his face and throat. A knee connected with his stomach, his groin, his nose. Wait, when did he end up on his knees?

 

The pressure on his throat was relieved, and Peter crumpled to the ground. Sobs racked his body immediately. Why couldn’t he have just dissociated like he had in the  lab? Or, wait, had he dissociated? Maybe he had just passed out... or blocked the memories. Mister Stark had mentioned that, once. The brain shutting out reality that was too intense for the sentient mind to deal with.

 

Or maybe Peter had just forgotten. Ha.

 

He laid his eyes on the finger, now resting just inches from his face. The end was a mess of broken skin and muscle. There was too much red to see bone or even any skin. A powerful wave of nausea swept over him once again, and Peter heaved up what little bile was left in his stomach. A metal plated boot swept into Peter’s vision, and Peter’s primal instincts had the good sense to flinch away. The boot connected with the side of his head, rather than his nose, which later Peter would be grateful for, but at the present, the pain was still stunning. His vision was blurry and washed out. He vaguely registered someone slapping a few layers of duct tape over his mouth people shoving him into the corner of his cell.

 

They left him there, alone, with drops of blood tracing the path from the finger to the door.

 

Wanda was right. Only two days alone in this place, and he was already losing his mind.




“You’re here because you disobeyed.”

 

“That doesn’t answer my question.”

 

“Well, why doesn’t it ?” Ross snapped, teeth bared in a way that made him look nearly inhuman.

 

“Where’s here ? Are we talking about this room, or the Raft, or on the planet Earth? Because, let me tell you, that last one has really got me thinking–”

 

Ross’s hand whipped across Peter’s face as a quick burst of electricity shocked him simultaneously.

 

“Talk again and I’ll stick you in the labs for a week.”

 

Peter promptly shut up. He had no doubt in his mind that Ross would do it. Hell, he probably would anyways. What was stopping him?

 

“You’re alone, now. The other subjects’ statuses have been terminated. That is all I am here to inform you of.”

 

Ross turned on his heel and headed towards the double doors at the front of the room.

 

“What did you do?” Peter demanded, almost regretting the outburst just as the all-too familiar feeling of being shocked registered.

 

Ross paused and glanced halfway over his shoulder, eying Peter from the corner of his vision. “Did I not clarify this already, Subject 7? Terminated.”

 

Tears blurred his vision instantly. “W-What? But they– No –”

 

Another shock danced across the teardrops on his skin, but Peter couldn’t be bothered to notice. “You heard me. Terminated. What did you think would happen if you encouraged them to escape?”




Shaky breaths rolled through him. Even simply recounting the memory brought just as much fear. Just as much guilt and regret and disbelief.

 

Heh. Not so much disbelief now, he guessed.

 

Peter wished he could go back to when he almost didn’t believe it.



Chapter Text

“Steve?”

 

“Stark, I swear, if this is another–”

 

“No, no, Steve, promise. Good news. You’ll want to hear this.”

 

“Spider-Kid turn up?”

 

“Well, no, but the others did.”

 

“...Stark, if this is a joke…”

 

“No jokes here. You wanna talk to ‘em? Well actually, Clint and Scott are on the phone with their kids, but Wanda and Sam are right here.”

 

“Put them on!”

 

Tony grinned. “I’d be glad to, Captain.”




Tony felt like Screaming.

 

Capital “S.”

 

That’s something Peter would say.

 

Not that he could if he wanted to. Considering that he was currently sitting in the actual Senate, screaming would probably be a bad move. Most anything would be, actually.

 

Eh, he’s done worse.

 

A few days ago, the missing Rogues had been returned to the Avengers Compound by Ross’s men, battered and exhausted, but all in one piece.

 

“Look, I-I know you guys are really tired but I have this...I know this guy who Ross said he arrested, and I think he might have been on the Raft.”

 

Sam frowned, the articulation just visible from where he stood across the kitchen. He was going through Tony’s fridge, throwing out the food that would have made Tony sick upon eating. Not that he would have noticed.

 

“We had pretty limited contact on that thing. I don’t remember seeing anyone but Wanda, Clint, and Scott. But maybe...Who were they? We know them?”

 

“Spider-Man, actually. May have gone by Peter Parker? Brown hair and eyes? Five eight, freakishly muscular for his– um, his height?” Tony’s eyes flitted back between his four team-mates, desperate for any recognition.

 

“Wanda?” Tony asked again, his voice small. “Did you– With your powers, were you…?”

 

Wanda stared at her hands, eyes wide. It was clear to Tony that she was scouring every memory. “I...There’s certainly a possibility that he was on there, but my powers were extremely limited. I-I couldn’t feel much. I’m sorry, Tony.”

 

Tony looked her straight in the eyes, gentle and stern. It was an expression that had felt more and more familiar to him over the last two years. “Don’t be. You did nothing wrong.” His voice was soft and understanding. “I’m just glad you made it out. I’m sorry I couldn’t...I’m sorry I let this happen.”

 

“It’s alright, Tony.” Sam nodded, his tone a match. “We know you didn’t want this to happen.”

 

“If...I mean, I know you guys just got out and you should take all the time you need, but your testimonies could really do some work on Congress. We’re in the process of amending them right now and you guys have a lot of influence over the public. Positive influence, too.”

 

Sam startled. “I would have thought the opposite. Why isn’t it?”

 

Tony gave him a look. “Not to patronize you, but I thought the Infinity War would have been obvious. Wanda?”

 

Wanda hesitated. Her teeth worried her lip. Tony noted it and tried to stick it in his brain that he would need to pick up chapstick and vaseline.

 

(Especially if Peter was going to be back. He had a habit of chewing his lip when he was anxious, and Tony had a feeling that having the Rogues back from that shithole would help out.)

 

“After you reversed the Snap and we all got undusted, well, Ross got ahold of us fast. He’s really fast. I don’t even know how he knew where we were. He had us all in under twenty-four hours. He’s really fast, Tony.”

 

Tony could pick out the tremor in her voice, could recognize the rambling pace of words spilling from her mouth. He stepped forwards and reached out a hand, ready to help soothe the advancing panic attack. But Sam, ever the therapist, was already there, and how had he done that? From all the way over there...

 

He had gotten there so fast. Almost immediately.

 

He had gotten there so fast.

 

Tony threw a glance over at Sam. The other man caught it and raised a brow. Tony nodded once, subtly, and his lips curled into what was, for the first time in––God, how long had it been? weeks?––a genuine smile.

 

Next to Sam sat practically the whole crew. Scott, Wanda, Clint, T’Challa, Nat, Rhodey, and––this practically sealed their case––Steve and James.

 

Today was going to show the first real progress in months.

 

He was sure of it.

 

We’re coming for you, Pete.






He was going to die. Maybe.

 

Peter wasn’t able to hear as well as he had been––they’d been playing this damn high-pitched racket over the speakers for hours. It left his ears sensitive, rapidly oscillating between feeling a dull numbness and sharp, agonizing pain. Oscillation between terrifying and overwhelming. The space between was filled with a soft ringing, and Peter loathed to recognize that it was a comfort, but it was.

 

Ergo, what little conversation he picked up was not exactly coherent.

 

“They did...acceleration...now. Comp...schedule...another week, max…”

 

That said, it didn’t really need to be coherent in order for him to get a good picture of what was going on.

 

Something had happened. They were planning to fit everything that they had planned for him into the next week, and then they would be finished. And he would be finished. And that would be that.

 

To be perfectly honest, Peter couldn’t bring himself to feel all too upset at the notion. It wasn’t that Peter was suicidal; he still had a life that he felt inclined to get back to, and damn him if he’d ever be pleased at the idea of Ross winning.(Peter carefully tucked away the thorns that had grown onto his skin; if he escaped, he would adjust back to normal. He would.). But for once, Peter knew what was going to happen to him. He wasn’t left guessing at schedules, wondering if they’d give him a break for today (one day? Six hours? Three days?), or even how long this would go on.

 

The way Peter saw it, there were three possible outcomes.

 

One, Ross, by hand of one of his “doctors,” would kill him dead.

 

Two, law enforcement or Mister Stark would access him and get him out.

 

Three, Peter would do something to get himself out.

 

Out of curiosity, Peter tugged at his arms again. Pinned. And he could barely even curl his legs to his chest. Damn Leg Day (read: holding stress positions for the better part of twenty-four hours).

 

Two options, then.

 

Either way, he still knew kinda what was going on. By the end of the week, this would all be over, one way or another.

 

Peter groaned, and was almost surprised when a sigh escaped him.

 

Oh yeah. His vocal cords. Forgot about that.

 

He couldn’t remember very clearly, but Peter was fairly sure that they had amputated one of his toes a few weeks ago, in order to see if it would regenerate. It had; Peter could move it right now. Grown back in just under two weeks. Awfully fast, if you asked him.

 

That said, the regenerated toe had prompted the scientists to go a little further.

 

What on this godforsaken rock had inclined them to go for his vocal cords, Peter had no idea. (The fact that he maybe wouldn’t have been in this position if he hadn’t talked so much at the beginning went carefully unregistered in his brain.) But he really hoped the scientists were right, that they would grow back. The soreness in his throat aside, the fact that he wouldn’t be permitted to talk even if he could aside , Peter still held out a smidgen of hope that he could get out of here in the next week. If he did, he wanted to be able to tell Mister Stark that he was sorry for–






 

 

What was he sorry for, again?

 

No, no. That wasn’t the right question. Well, it was. There were plenty of things Peter was sorry for (not listening to Mister Stark, not listening to May, disappearing from May right around Ben’s anniversary, forgetting to send Ned the math homework before he snuck out–). The list was extensive. But that wasn’t it. None of those were it . There was something specific. So, so specific.

 

Peter ran through the list as quickly as he could, not eager to dwell on his mistakes, but certainly feeling obligated to recognize the one damn specific thing. Not listening to Mister Stark, not listening to May, disappearing from May right around Ben’s anniversary, forgetting to send Ned the math homework before he snuck out, not being in town for the Decathlon meet that MJ was so subtly worried about, getting snatched the night before he was supposed to watch Laura’s kids– fuck.

 

Clint.

 

The sobs quickly overtook him.




After another few days (?), Peter found that it only took practice to remember what was wrong. It definitely did take practice. Between everything happening with the accelerated schedule, Peter found himself so busied that it was so easy to forget.

 

There was the painful wheezing that came with the regrowth of vocal cords. Peter could remember that one because it hurt, and the barely-there vocal cords felt weird and lumpy in his throat. How had he gotten so used to that small, empty space in his throat so quickly?

 

Oh, and his vision. Gods, his vision. Peter didn’t even know what the scientific purpose for this was. Probably some sensory shit, something that Peter didn’t have the energy to figure out when they were measuring it. He just did what they wanted when they wanted. Whatever the case, Peter couldn’t see. It had only been a day or so since Peter had been administered the toxin that he’s pretty certain is responsible for the incredibly disorienting and overwhelming experience of not seeing anything . Not even the Black. This one, Peter was excited to be done with.

 

On the bright side, they had shut off that piece-of-shit speaker this morning (?) and Peter could finally feel his hearing returning to normal.

 

On the not-so-bright side, he had some more samples taken. Peter almost frowned. Not some. It was all of them. He remembered now. They wanted to see how they had changed over the course of having him on the Raft. Muscle and flesh, skin, bone marrow, tears, seminal fluid, spinal fluid, saliva, hair. All of it gone from him and into those labs. Peter didn’t like the sample lab much. It reminded him too much of his old home. His old old home, that is.

 

(That’s right, Einstein, just lean back, nice and easy. Remember, I’m the doctor and you’re the patient.)

 

Peter shuddered, his longing for Mister Stark fresh and raw. Like an exposed nerve.

 

Oh, yeah, Peter had forgotten about that one too. Samples of his nervous system. He couldn’t feel the inside of his left wrist anymore. No fixing that, he supposed.

 

That’s right. Practice. He had to practice remembering the things that were wrong or he’d forget. Well, not these things, the one thing was what he was supposed to practice. But he needed to practice this too. Practice for the practice.

 

He was practicing to remember...What had triggered it last time? What was he thinking about last time? Things that hurt...What he did wrong. Yes, that was right. What next? Wrong wrong wrong wrong. Mistakes. Yes. Not listening to Mister Stark, not listening to May, disappearing from May right around Ben’s anniversary, forgetting to send Ned the math homework before he snuck out, not being in town for the Decathlon meet that MJ was so subtly worried about, getting snatched the night before he was supposed to watch Laura’s kids–Right! Clint. Clint and Wanda and Sam and Scott. He killed them. His fault. That was it. He remembered now.

 

Peter had to practice more. He kept forgetting that one specific one more than all the other stuff combined, and he wished he knew why. Mister Stark would have known why.

 

Mister Stark would probably hate him if he knew. But would he know? If Peter got out, then it would mean that he had dealt with Ross, which meant that Ross would be dead (because Mister Stark killed him), and Mister Fury would take all the files and scientists and guards (and there were new guards now. Where were the old guards? The one that Peter had stolen from...stolen something from...He was forgetting again. He shouldn’t steal. Needs more practice) and not give them to Mister Stark, which means no one would tell Mister Stark what happened except for that Peter could. And Mister Stark deserved the truth. He deserved to know what happened to his friends.

 

If Peter reached out, he could almost remember before...before the...the...Not before the Raft, because he could remember that. Well, he could remember his before the Raft, not their before the Raft. Right. Right! The space from before the Infinity War to when they had disappeared. He ran around with the gauntlet, like playing football, and Mister Stark snapped and Peter knew he was no longer dust. Permanent, now.

 

Peter giggled, the air whispering from him grotesquely. That was a funny time. Peter could just imagine, his ashes in a box just like Ben, boxes side by side. Boxes United. Peter giggled again. His handprint was in Ben’s ashes, marring the soft grey surface. Peter scrubbed his thumb and forefinger together and felt the soft ashes between them, sticking into the crevices of his fingerprints and smoothing his skin. Filling the gaps. If Thanos was shorter, he could reach down, press his big purple hand right onto his ashes and make a print. But he couldn’t. Peter knew the print would be there, should be there, but Thanos was too tall. Too far to stoop to make the print.

 

That’s alright, Peter told himself. He didn’t want Thanos’s handprint anyways.

 

Insect.

 

What had he...Mister Stark. He deserved the truth. Forgetting again. Focus up, Parker, MJ spat. You got a mission. Accomplish it. Work the problem. 

 

Mister Stark deserves the truth. Practice. Like MJ and Liz and Ned and Mister Stark say to do. Just do the practice.

 

Things that are wrong. Mistakes. Not listening to Mister Stark, not listening to May, disappearing from May right around Ben’s anniversary, forgetting to send Ned the math homework before he snuck out, not being in town for the Decathlon meet that MJ was so subtly worried about, getting snatched the night before he was supposed to watch Laura’s kids, Clint and Sam and Wanda and Scott. Wash, rinse, repeat.

 

Things that are wrong. Mistakes. Not listening to Mister Stark, not listening to May, disappearing from May right around Ben’s anniversary, forgetting to send Ned the math homework before he snuck out, not being in town for the Decathlon meet that MJ was so subtly worried about, getting snatched the night before he was supposed to watch Laura’s kids, Clint and Sam and Wanda and Scott. Wash, rinse, repeat.

 

Things that are wrong. Mistakes. Not listening to Mister Stark, not listening to May, disappearing from May right around Ben’s anniversary, forgetting to send Ned the math homework before he snuck out, not being in town for the Decathlon meet that MJ was so subtly worried about, getting snatched the night before he was supposed to watch Laura’s kids, Clint and Sam and Wanda and Scott. Wash, rinse, repeat.

 

Mister Stark deserves the truth.

Chapter Text

“Should we tell Tony?”

 

“About Peter? Hell, no.”

 

“He deserves to know what we know.”

 

“He’ll lose his shit.”

 

“Oh, definitely. Spider-Guy obviously means something to Tony. And it’s not fair for him to keep wondering where the guy is.”

 

“Not fair , maybe, but merciful? Also maybe.”

 

“Closure outranks a lack of bad news. Dumbasses.”

 

“Fine. Fine! Go ahead and find Stark and tell him that his partner or buddy or whatever is probably dead at the bottom of the ocean.”

 

“He might not even–Look, he was genetically enhanced. They wouldn’t just throw away a live specimen like that.”

 

“That’s the spirit, Sam.”

 

“Clint, I swear to God–

 

“Knock it the hell off already. Look, maybe we should talk to Steve and Bucky.”

 

“Why, so we can have their perfected moral compasses lead the way? Yeah, cool. It’ll work out great. Historical data says so.”

 

“God, would you lay off of Cap for one god damned minute? That was seven years ago .”

 

“You know, say what you want about Rogers, but Bucky might actually have some wisdom on this subject.”

 

“Let me finish. There might not be a need to break that type of news. They wouldn’t just throw him away like that if his body was all that special. He’s probably around somewhere.”

 

“Who says that he needs to be alive for them to get everything they need?”

 

“Says Bruce , the only biological expert on this team–”

 

“It does not matter.”

 

All eyes turned to Wanda.

 

“He was not on the Raft. They do not have another raft. Natasha would have found it. Phil would have found it. Nick would have found it.”

 

Sam put a hand on her shoulder, and Wanda shuddered at the heat radiating from his palm. The living room was 69º farenheit, as always, but Wanda was still so cold. “Then it’s not another raft. It could be anywhere on land, in the air even–”

 

“They will not find it.” Wanda interrupted, eyes hazy. “Thousands upon thousands upon thousands of secret prisons on this stupid rock, and the only one that we cannot see into is the Raft. If there are other prisons that we have not found yet, we will not be able to find them until someone makes a mistake.”

 

Nat swallowed. “They don’t make mistakes, Wanda. Maybe politicians are the face of the Raft, of all of the prisons, but behind them are experts. The class of people with responsibilities so secure that they’re not allowed names or designations. Those people don’t make the kinds of mistakes that would help us from here. It’s...It’s too protected. Sure, maybe this Peter Parker guy is alive, but he’s out of reach until someone lets us in.”

 

“And now we’re back to politics,” Scott muttered.

 

“We’re back to politics,” Natasha agreed. 

 

Clint sneered. “Back to square one, you mean.”

 

Scott pushed his tongue against the inside of his cheek. “So how close is Tony with Congress, then?” 

 

“With your testimonies? A few weeks, maybe.”

 

Sam inclined his head. “That’s actually not half bad.”

 

“The fact that I agree with you attests to how fucked up this is.”

 

“Are you talking about us agreeing or about how a few weeks in hell is optimistic?”

 

Clint shrugged. “Both?”

 

“God, I hope that man is still alive. To die in a place like that…” Scott moved around to the front of the couch and eased down, his eyes somewhere far away. “I wonder if he has a family.”

 

Nat hummed. “I think he does.”

 

“We should talk to Tony. See if he knows Parker’s family. If-If they need anything.” Scott’s eyes were pleading. Clint nodded. Damn right.

 

“Okay,” Nat agreed softly. “We can do that.”

 

All was quiet.




 

 

Tony sat in his lab in his rolling chair. He leaned forwards and put his head in his hands, elbows braced on the armrests.

 

“Forward it to Pepper. A grant upwards of one million should do. Next.”

 

“An alleged sighting of Peter Parker.”

 

Tony’s heart clenched. These types of notifications had quickly become his least favorite. Weeks ago, hope had caused him to jump out of his skin every time they came. But they were false. Always false. And what else could Tony have expected? Peter was in custody. The execs had admitted it to Congress (not publically, thank God) that they had him. His kid was smart and strong and clever, but he wasn’t powerful. Tony knew, the certain type of people who would be assigned after imprisoning his kid wouldn’t mess up. Not badly enough for Peter to be able to take advantage of it. Not enough for Peter to get out and wander the Earth, only to be sighted in…

 

“Where is it this time?”

 

“Boulder, Colorado.”

 

Hm. That was near the presidential bunkers, wasn’t it? (Not that Tony knew for sure, but hypothetically, if Tony hacked the feds to find the best place to hide his family in the event of another disaster, then he didn’t think anybody would blame him.) It might be worth checking out.

 

Tony struggled to quell the hope rising in his gut. He had gotten hope when there had been a sighting in L.A., in the Bronx, in Rosehill, Tennessee, in St. Petersberg, in Las Vegas. Tony had always thought there had been good reason to search all of those areas, check the authenticity of the sightings. And they were always false.

 

Tony still checked anyways.

 

“Evidence of the sighting?”

 

“Photograph taken by a civilian StarkPhone. It is authentic. Timestamped as 19:47 MST yesterday. It does not match my database of pictures of Peter and it most likely false.”

 

Tony glanced at the clock. So it was taken two hours ago.

 

“Bring it up, Fri.”

 

The photograph stretched across the holographic interface. Tony studied it carefully. Big brown eyes, brown curls, the same slope of the jaw...but the nose was wrong. It almost, almost , looked like Peter. But the kid in the photo had a little upturned nose. Not Peter’s. It wasn’t him.

 

“Dismiss. Next.”

 

With that, Tony fully pushed down any hope he had felt. See? See what happens? I told you it was false . I told you so.

 

“An e-mail from Colonel James Rhodes has just arrived.”

 

Tony perked up a little and scolded himself immediately. It didn’t mean anything. Sure, Rhodey had insisted that he handle Congress for a day so that Tony could rest up, but that didn’t mean anything, necessarily. Could just be a regular status report.

 

“Bring it up.” Tony’s heart thumped in his chest as the message splayed across the interface. He began to read. 

 

 

 

 

Toy Story played against the wall as the pardoned heroes lay scattered the enormous sofa. The scent of flour and apples hung in the air, leftover from the day’s various sessions of stress-baking. It wasn’t too late. Not even midnight, if Natasha’s internal clock was anything to go by, and it always was. But it had been a long day––a long few months––and they were tired. Sam had been asleep for an hour. Scott and Clint leaned on each other, moving in and out of sleep. Steve had taken Bucky up to bed a few minutes ago, and Wanda’s eyes fluttered where her head rested in Natasha’s lap. The Widow was the only one still alert. She drank in the beloved sight of her teammates and friends resting, finally safe.

 

A single faint scream changed all of that in an instant.

 

Wanda flinched and sat half-way up, looking to the others as if to confirm what she had heard.

 

“That was Stark.” Natasha was the first to jump to her feet. Clint was next, knocking over Scott in the process. He scrambled to his feet, eyes half-lidded with sleep. “What…?”

 

“Get up, man!” Sam implored as he ran towards the door. Natasha caught him subtly feeling his hip to ensure that his gun was still there. “Something’s up with Stark!” he called over his shoulder, disappearing through the doorway.

 

“Isn’t he in the lab?” Natasha asked hurriedly. Sam frowned and Natasha knew that he was keeping up with her. The lab was three floors up. The floor was accessible via elevator or stairway. Tony’s voice would have had to echo down three stories of stairs and then halfway into the tower for the no-longer-Rogues to hear it. Which meant that he had been loud. Really loud.

 

“Yeah. He should be. Friday? Is Stark okay?”

 

“The boss is safe. He is currently in the laboratory. I believe that he would be appreciate your presence.”

 

That was enough for Sam and Natasha. They hurried towards the elevator. “Take us d– Guys?” Sam looked at the others, who hung around the elevator. “What are we doing?”

 

“Well, he’s fine, right?” Scott said, waving his hand. Sam’s eyebrows shot up once he realized Clint was walking back to the common room. Wanda looked after, seeming as if she was about to follow.

 

“Sure, but Friday that he’d probably want us down there.”

 

“He’ll be fine,” Clint called back. “I’m going back to sleep.” 

 

Wanda walked back, stopping at the doorway to look at Scott and jerk her head into the common room. Come back. 

 

Scott gave Natasha and Sam an apologetic look. “Maybe a lot of people around Stark isn’t the best idea right now. Let us know how he is. Good? Good.” He gave two thumbs-up before doubling back.

 

Sam stared after him as if dumbfounded. Natasha blinked and asked Friday to take them up to the lab. Sam turned his gaze to Natasha inquiringly.

 

“Later,” Natasha reassured him.

 

The doors opened smoothly, soundlessly, and Sam and Natasha bolted to the back of the lab with light footsteps pattering against the cement floors. Natasha waited until she had eyes on Tony and had surveyed the immediate area to call out to him. Friday had said it was safe, but you never knew when the system could be compromised. You just never knew.

 

“Stark? Is everything okay?”

 

Tony stood over his main desk, a lengthy e-mail displayed in front of him. His hair was a mess and his skin was covered in grease and rust. He had probably been working on that old Pontiac Natasha had seen on her way in. At the sound of her voice, Tony turned around. Natasha was alost prompted to flinch at the manic light in his eyes.

 

Oh no , she thought. Spider-Guy is dead.

 

“Talk to us, Stark,” Sam tried. “What’s going on?”

 

“C-Come look at this! Come read this! Get over here!” Tony waved them over frantically, and Natasha relaxed fractionally. He was either farther past his breaking point than she had ever seen him, or he was more excited than she had ever seen him. Not exactly great for determining the risks in approaching him, Natasha thought.

 

Then she caught sight of the disbelieving, genuine smile at his lips and changed her mind. 

 

Natasha hurried to the interface, Sam hot on her heels, and ran through the e-mail as fast as she could, looking for the magic words. What had made Tony scream out of apparent giddiness? Was he about to get Spider-Guy back?

 

Apparently not.

 

Fifth sentence, eighth line. Rhodey was quoting Madam Speaker Yoon, now. Upon review, the House of Representatives has determined that Secretary Ross’s actions have been unprofessional, illegal, and taken both with the intent to take advantage of the law and with the intent to harm and manipulate a select demographic. As such, the House has moved by popular vote to impeach Secretary Ross.

 

Natasha read no further. She looked up at Tony. Hope glowed in his eyes.

 

“How long until trial?”

 

“He’s had this coming for a literal decade. And considering that there are civilians who have potentially been endangered by his actions, they’re moving fast. One week.”

 

“One week,” Sam breathed. “One week until they shut down the Raft and all those other prisons?”

 

“As long as he’s found guilty,” Tony stipulated, then added, “and he will. We’ve made sure of that.” With a grin, Tony held up a flash drive.

 

“And they’ve got guards on him this time. They’ve practically arrested him. Looks like the feds aren’t so keen to have their little secretary disappear right before trial again, eh?” 

 

Excitement boiled in Natasha. 

 

Ross wasn’t getting away from them. Not this time.

 

 

Chapter Text

I didn’t always know the Avengers were doomed, y’know. Surprise. I didn’t know something. But in my defense, it was a good idea. Nick Fury had a good idea. Can you believe that? And everyone supported it. Everyone supported it. We supported it, Congress supported it, the military supported it, the people supported it. A specialized response team, they said. We could really use one of those. We all thought it! We had the support. Maybe I was the main source of said support, but, hey, that was pretty much my job. Keep things running.

 

(Even if I knew that Fury was just using me. They all were, really. I can recognize that now because I’m too damn jaded to let my desire for approval keep me naïve. I just can’t afford it these days.)

 

I’m smart. Common knowledge. But it doesn’t mean I’m not an idiot. I should have seen the first red flag, when Natasha put me down for consultant because she couldn’t look through me to see me, and then Fury and Agent let it stay that way for months. It was ignorance, rejection, and manipulation, rolled up into a nice little ball. I should have seen it. But I didn’t.

 

I should have seen it during Ultron, when fear used blame to cripple us from problem-solving. I should have seen it when Fury (and everyone else) let a kid on the team when she needed to be in rehab. I should have seen it when my best friends went home to shower and eat and sleep after every battle, forgetting that I was going to be up for the next forty hours trying to put out our fires. 

 

I should have seen it as Steve walked from my side to just across from me to look at the diagrams on the holographic interface, breaking the vague circle we had been standing in. I should have seen it as he turned around and looked at me and suddenly a disparity between us formed in the eyes of our teammates. The paradigm shifted that quickly. I should have seen it. Steve refuses to discuss the Accords with me so I can explain my plan to him. Steve doesn’t realize how well-versed I am in politics. He doesn’t realize that I’ve lived and breathed politics since the day I stepped out into the cameras’ flashing lights. He doesn’t know that I know what I’m doing, so he doesn’t trust me. He doesn’t trust me. Not with the world, not with the information about my parents, not with James. He doesn’t even want to try. I’m not worth it.

 

Should have seen it coming .

 

Normally, I’m smart. Statistically speaking, 99% of the time, I know these things are going to happen. I can see them walking down the street.

 

So maybe I did always know the Avengers Initiative doomed. Unsteady foundation, dysfunctional members, uncertain members, abuse of members–

 

Maybe I always saw it. But in fifty-three years of politics and inventions and socialities and plans, I have learned one lesson over and over and over again: the alpha version is never perfect.

 

The Iron Man suit has gone through 85 Marks to get to where it was now, and Mark LXXXV is a beauty. A work of art. There’s just not another way to put it. But it’s taken fifteen years to do that. Fifteen years and 85 versions, not including the ones so terrible that I didn’t even bother to name them, not including the thousands upon thousands of adjustments made within each Mark. Hell, it had taken three Marks just to get a barely functional tin can of a suit.

 

This is the Avengers. Maybe they won’t have 85 Marks worth of time to figure out how to do this right. But the beta is always lightyears better than the alpha anyways. And I know it’ll be the beta because there’s no way any of the current Avengers are staying on the team after this. This is a street I can see. Steve will lament to himself about the error of his ways, “woe is me,” yadda yadda. He’ll want to pass off the shield. Bruce was pretty much already off the team. He’s not about to get back on. Thor is a mess and he’s going to need years to mourn everything he’s lost. Clint will want to go see his sister and spend time with Natasha. And Natasha will follow the others, her new family. She’ll probably follow Clint a little more closely, though.

 

When I really think about why it all went so wrong, I think we were too selfish. That was the problem. We were too selfish to share information, too selfish to tell the truth, too selfish to ask for help, too selfish to sacrifice image, too selfish to do the job that we signed up for. That’s why Peter is perfect. He’s...He’s perfect. He is glittering intelligence and genuinity and love. He is the very definition of everything that we forgot we needed. That’s why he’ll do better.

 

I got to hug Peter a few minutes ago, by the way. He’s alive. He’s alive. And putting aside all of the big reasons that that makes me truly happy (he can live he can meet Morgan he can protect Morgan he can graduate highschool he can figure out he has a crush on MJ see his aunt–), this also means something very big.

 

The contingency plan will work.

 

What, you thought I was about to go into space, to fight Thanos, to probably die, without setting up a plan for the beta version?

 

Okay, okay, I did have multiple plans. I wasn’t sure that we’d even get Peter back. But the plan with Peter is the best because Peter is the best. He’s the best we got. He’s beyond anything we’ve ever had before. He will do more and do better than anyone ever has, ever. Which means that Earth has a really, really good shot in the aftermath of this shitstorm.

 

I finished E.D.I.T.H. before I left Earth. It’s with Fury. He knows what to do with it. He’s like me. He can see everything (except for the demise of the first Avengers, apparently) walking down the street. He knows Peter is the best we got. He’ll give E.D.I.T.H. to Peter. I think I may have even specified her to Peter in my will, but I can’t really remember because I’m running out of time and it’s distracting. It’s making me scared enough that the rage-induced adrenaline that’s been fueling me for the last six months begins to fade, just a little. I have to do this fast before I lose the chance that I’ve literally sacrificed everything for. Fuck this purple piece of shit. He won’t beat me again. I won’t fucking let him.

 

Thanos snaps and I know it’s an empty gesture long before he does. He turns to look at me, at the shimmering gold over my right hand. He can’t reach me in time. He knows it. I know it. The fear stops long enough for me to feel the smug sense of victory that I’ve been waiting for since I first left that wormhole.

 

“I am Iron Man.”

 

Take care of my girls, Pete.



Chapter Text

Peter was confused.

 

So, so confused.

 

He had thought they were gonna do more work on him, and they did, and it sucked, just as it always did. Sampling all over again, hands and objects in places they shouldn’t be, and eventually dissociating because fighting, or-or staying aware was, just... insane

 

It lasted a week. Just like they said it would. Just like Peter heard. The scientists added more tests. Peter had at some point heard them explain that they needed to figure out how they could decompose his body as fast as possible. There was a lot of pain, after that. But Peter morbidly found himself struggling to pay attention to what they did, what they were talking about. What exactly would cause him to decompose the most quickly? Surely it would be a little bit different because of his genetics. 

 

Eventually, the conclusion was concentrated sulfuric acid. Weeks (months?) ago, Peter might have muttered called it

 

Apparently, the full plan was to shoot Peter, dehydrate and freeze his body, then pulverize and dissolve it before dumping the waste into the ocean. Then they’d sink the Raft. Easy peasy. 

 

So there Peter was, kneeling in a thousand liter metal bin. As per usual, his limbs were locked behind him and the shock collar bore down uncomfortably on his trachea. This time, they had thrown in a blindfold and a gag––a real, fabric gag, not the rubber one they gave him in the lab to keep him from breaking his teeth. 

 

“How much longer do you need?” The man speaking––Peter’s primary guard, judging by the voice––seemed annoyed.

 

A woman hummed. “Maybe an hour?”

 

The guard snorted and the woman quickly replied in a sneering tone, “Give me a break. We’re not going to have another research opportunity for enhanced genetics for at least another few months. Or do you cretins not realize how essential Ross has been to this opportunity?”

 

Peter’s brows furrowed. They were gonna do this again? Had they been doing this already with genetically enhanced people? 

 

“With him incarcerated, we’re doing to have to put in thrice the effort to access subjects.”

 

Incarcerated. Peter’s heart thudded in his chest. Ross was incarcerated. Or going to be.

 

“Yeah, okay, sure. Just tell me when I can shoot it. I don’t know if you heard, but the indictment was this morning. The feds are gonna be here soon. We gotta hop ship before that.”

 

Peter’s breath nearly ceased in his chest. He hadn’t realized the reason for the sped-up timeline. Like an idiot. So Ross had gotten accused of something––probably by Mister Stark––and–

 

Holy shit . That was definitely Mister Stark. Mister Stark...got Ross arrested . And convicted . And…

 

Peter knew he didn’t deserve it, but a part of him hoped that Mister Stark had done it for him. 

 

All at once, Peter really didn’t want to die. His bonds felt wrong on him in a way they hadn’t since day one. Peter was suddenly intimately aware of the scientist at his eleven and the guard standing to his three o’clock with a handgun resting in his palm. For the past few weeks, Peter had only really wanted out because Mister Stark deserved the truth. He deserved to know that the death of his teammates was over Peter’s head. But now...Peter could only think of how much he still wanted to live for. Even if he didn’t deserve it, Peter wanted to-to graduate . He wanted to get his driver’s license. He wanted to visit Ben’s grave on the first Sunday of every month. He wanted to teach May how to make chicken alfredo and tacidos and breakfast burritos so that she could eat and not be so sick when she drank too much. He wanted to upgrade the security grid for Happy and figure out why Flash was so tiredly grumpy on Mondays and buy flowers for the janitor. He wanted to build another LEGO set with Ned and talk to MJ about The Martian and make Pepper coffee in the mornings and snuggle with Morgan before bed. 

 

He wanted to hug Tony again, too.

 

Peter knew it was selfish. But, God, that didn’t make him want it any less.

 

“If I hop ship before I wring this little insect of everything it has to offer, then Whitney will be pissed and fire me and then I’ll have a mysterious accident in the next twelve hours. We’re fucking staying.”

 

“Maybe you’re fucking staying. I’m out.” Metal clattered on cement. The guard had thrown his gun down. “Shoot it, put the bin under the hydraulic press, then sulphuric acid, and dump it. You know how to do the sulphuric acid?”

 

“I’m a lab technician, idiot. I know how to handle acid.”

 

Sorry ,” the guard said sarcastically. “Here. I don’t think it’ll try anything, but just in case. If it’s really misbehaving, go ahead and take more samples of its seminal fluid. That usually gets it to dissociate into compliance.”

 

Peter grimaced. That particular guard knew him too well.

 

The woman snorted. “Thanks for the tip. Are you outta here or what?”

 

“Outta here.” A metal door zoomed open and closed and the guard was gone.

 

Peter wondered if he would ever see him again.

 

No, no. Focus. You heard her, Parker. She’s not leaving as long as there’s still work to be done. Buy time. Give her work. Maybe you can last long enough to tell Mister Stark.




Haley Dubois was a scientist above all else. She realized that this unc]fortunately included ethics. Science, medical science in particular, was necessary to life and developing the quality of life. The problem was that the real good ground-breaking science was rarely ethical. It wasn’t a problem they could get around. Some researchers, like Mengele, indulged sadism that produced little applicable results, Others, like Hallervorden, produced extremely useful results with only a little ethical deviance. Then there were scientists like Rascher. His research was even a little more barbaric than what Jim and her team had been doing to the spider hybrid, and it ended up saving thousands of lives. Dubois like to think that she was like Rascher. Torturing the spider hybrid was providing unprecedented physical and psychological research that would eventually help humans and mutants alike. The ends justified the means. If the hybrid could understand that, then it probably would have been more than happy to participate in the study. Of course, they couldn’t tell it that to ease its conscious or make it more compliant; they had psychological studies to do, after all.

 

Haley Dubois was a scientists above all else. If doing more essential research killed her, then so be it. Hell, it didn’t matter to her if the hybrid died, even, though Dubois suspected that it’d probably kill itself after a few months anyways. Just easier that way. Not a bad idea, honestly. Vaguely, Dubois decided that if she wasn’t able to hop ship, she’d probably just shoot herself. Especially since in her case, the feds would want her for information, which could hurt their research pursuits.

 

She wasn’t planning on dissolving the body, either. That would take hours of time that could be used for further research. The whole point of dissolving the body was to remove evidence so they could protect Ross and thus the research pursuits, but the feds already  would have access to footage of the hybrid. They would know it was here one way or another, and there was no point in wasting time on something that was already lost.

 

Movement met the corner of her eye. Dubois glanced toward it. The hybrid hadn’t moved a muscle in over two hours. Why did it now?

 

Its head was jerking to its right. Its breath hitched and its brows furrowed underneath the blindfold. It was seemingly in pain.

 

Dubois rushed forwards and ripped cloth blindfold from its mouth, leaving it to hang around the hybrid’s neck. “You need to communicate with me. Are you in pain?”

 

The hybrid hesitated to respond, so Dubois smacked it. “Answer.”

 

“Yes,” it squeaked. 

 

“Where?”

 

“Lungs.”

 

Dubois cursed under her breath. Considering how many things they had been testing at the same time, she had decided to reduce testing on the lungs because it was unlikely the hybrid would survive if something went wrong. The lungs just didn’t look interesting enough to risk it.

 

But the hybrid only had a few hours left. What the hell? They could play with its lungs a little bit now. Dubois pulled up the blindfold so that it rested over the hybrid’s forehead.

 

“Stand up, get out of the tub, and lay on the table.” The hybrid stood compliantly but awkwardly stared at the edge of the tub. Right, Dubois remembered. Its ankles were bound together. It would have to jump the metal wall, which it probably wasn’t capable of in its current state. 

 

But Dubois wasn’t about to let the filthy hybrid touch her just so it could get to the table.

 

“Jump. I don’t care if you fall over, as long as you pick yourself up after.” Dubois’s voice was stern, promising reprimandation if it didn’t obey. Just as expected, the hybrid did its best to hop the edge of the tub. It wasn’t high, considering how high the hybrid could jump in normal conditions––only two feet. But its feet still caught the lip of the wall, sending the hybrid crashing to the cement floor. At least it was out of the tub. Dubois stiffled a laugh as it struggled to pull itself to its knees and then to its feet. The hybrid walked to the table. It turned its back to it, placing its hands on the table and jumping up. Ha. The hybrid was used to having soldiers get it up there, and anyways, it hadn’t been watered for over a day. Hadn’t been fed in longer. The thing was definitely weaker than it was used to.

 

The subjet lay down. Dubios cautiously activated the electromagnetic table top and pulled the hybrid’s arms out from underneath it.

 

“Normally, I’d gag you for this, but you need to be able to breathe.”

 

The hybrid looked scared and Dubois couldn’t find it in herself to be sympathetic. “And in better circumstances, I’d have an entire team monitoring your vitals and helping me with the procedure. But when do either of us get what we want, eh?

 

“Can you tell me what you feel like is going on with your lungs?” Dubois spoke as she cleaned her equipment. 

 

The hybrid nodded, its chest hitching, and rasped “Sepsis.” Oh, damn. It was a good thing that this was the last day they needed it around. Even if she never got around to killing it, it’d be dead in the next day or two. Dubois vaguely wondered how the hybrid had been able to recognize sepsis but pushed it aside. If she wasn’t wrong, the hybrid had been a New York vigilante. That type was always pretty smart and usually had experience with medical conditions or trauma. It was to be expected.

 

The hybrid had some symptoms of ARDS––blue fingernails, trouble breathing, mild pain. But those were also symptoms of countless other things it had been subject to.

 

Dubois put the tips of her stethoscope in her ears and the diaphragm to the hybrid’s chest. “Breathe normally.” One, two, three, four...It was quiet. “Breathe deep.” One, two–

 

The hybrid broke out into a coughing fit. But still, no rattling in the lungs. The heart seemed quiet, too. 

 

“What makes you think you’re septic?”

 

“I can’t breathe. It seemed a likely cause, given...everything.”

It wasn’t wrong.

 

“Well, shit, Bug. Looks like more tests for you.”

 

The hybrid squirmed minutely. It couldn’t help it. Dubois lazily palmed the remote in her pocket. A squeak escaped the hybrid as electricity crackled through it briefly. “None of that. God, I thought you knew the drill.”

 

The hybrid at least had the good sense to look ashamed.

 

“We’re starting with X-rays. We’re doing four and you’re laying down or all of them. Can you sit still for an hour or do I have to sedate you?” Dubois brought around the overhead X-ray in the lab to hover over the hybrid. She slipped on a led gown and then cut away the hybrid’s clothing. They didn’t need that shit screwing with the imaging. Maybe she should up the R’s. Make it go faster. And if she really upped the R’s then she might be able to observe some physical effects of radiation poisoning. Dubois would just have to make sure that she was in the lead room and would have to control the X-ray remotely. That should be fine, though.

 

“Uh, Ma’am?”

 

Dubois was really getting annoyed now. She had made peace with the idea of going to prison, but if she could avoid it, then that’s what she wanted to do. Which meant that she was on the clock. “What the fuck? What do you want?” It was kind of nice not to have any colleagues around that she had to be professional in front of.

 

“Are you going to put any lead over, um, the reproductive organs?” The hybrid’s stare was fixed on the ceiling. Dubois snorted.

 

“They won’t exactly be useful to you, now will they? It’s not like you’re trying for babies on your last day.” Damn. That would have been a smart idea, though. For all the tests they did on its reproductive system, they hadn’t actually tested the hybrid’s ability to impregnate someone. Oh well, that was okay. They had plenty of samples that they could use to test that with other subjects.

 

At her words, the hybrid’s face fell nearly imperceptibly. “So you’re saying that if I were to live then my reproductive organs would be…?”

 

Dubois rolled her eyes and started positioning the X-rays. “I guess I’ll bite. Who am I not to indulge the curiosities of a dying creature? Because we’re short on time and we don’t have the chance to retake any pictures, I’m amping up the radiation enough that actually organ damage is a viable risk. During typical X-rays at your pediatrician, they use a low enough concentration that the risk is negligible. But you already knew that, no? If you somehow survived, you’d be able to tell final organ damage for sure in the next forty eight hours or so. In you, I’d guess it’d cause an instance of about 30% infertility. But the effects of irradiation age as you age so that would probably increase over the years.”

 

It was quiet except for the hum of the machinery.

 

“Say thank you, you little prick. I just answered your question.”

 

“Thank you, Ma’am,” the hybrid choked out. Dubois moved to the lead room and activated the X-ray.

 

Forty minutes later, the alarms on the Raft went off. Dubois hastily started uploading her work from the past few hours to a computer to be sent off to a serve in Quebec while the current X-ray finished. X-rays on this machine only took about five minutes at a time; this one had just under a minute left. Dubois checked over the sent files. Had she gotten everything aside from the last X-ray and face observations of the effects of radiation?

 

:48, :47, :46, :45,

 

No, she hadn’t. Ocular hormones was missing. Where the hell was that zip drive?

 

:44, :43, :42, :41, :40,

 

It definitely wasn’t in here. Dubois glanced through the window to the main lab. Shit! It was just sitting on the counter

 

:39, :38,

 

How long did she have before they found her? Dubois moved to check the security cams.

 

:37, :36, :35, :34, :33,

 

Okay, so about fifty seconds. Not enough time for her to wait for the X-ray to finish. She wouldn’t have time to hop ship. Dubois could just grab the gun while she grabbed the zip drive. She just couldn’t forget to shoot the hybrid before shooting herself; if the hybrid was alive to give information, it would slow their research. Dubois unsealed and opened the door.

 

:32, :31, :30,

 

She made a mad dash from the lead room towards the zip drive. 

 

:29, :28, :27,

 

Then to the gun.

 

:26, :25, :24,

 

Then towards the lead room again. Slower, this time. Didn’t want a stray shot going off.

 

:23, :22, :21, :20, :19, :18,

 

Dubois left the door unsealed and shoved the zip drive into the port. Upload, you little bastard. C’mon. She glanced over the hybrid again and added a few last notes to her report.

 

:17, :16, :15, :14, :13, :12,

 

Upload complete. Now for the observations on radiation. Convert and send.

 

:11, :10, :09, :08,

 

Now she just needed to wait for the X-ray to process.

 

:07, :06, :05, :04, :03, :02, :01, :00

 

Send, send, send, send, send– Yes! Dubois grabbed the gun and stepped through the doorway. The hybrid whimpered as she raised her gun. Her finger tightened over the






























 

 

 

 

 

Tony flinched when the gun in the woman’s hand went off, even as she fell to the ground, crimson dripping from the side of her head.

 

He looked at Peter. Even mangled and starved, it was still so clearly him.

 

“Is that the kid?” Rhodey asked.

 

“He’s not breathing,” Tony commented. He and Rhodey stood just at the doorway to the lab. “He was just...before, he was…” Tony had seen it. The kid had been hyperventilating when the woman was pointing the gun at him. But now his chest was still.

 

Tony couldn’t remember walking but he must have because suddenly he was at Peter’s side. His left hand buried in the kid’s hair and his right hand cupped his face.

 

“He’s panicking. He’s holding his breath but he’s alive. Tony, he’s alive.”

 

He’s alive.

 

“Hey, kid. I’m here. Look at me. Look at me.”

 

His voice trembled and Peter’s eyes locked with his.

 

“Atta boy, Pete. That was so good. Can you breathe for me?”

 

Peter frowned as his mouth struggled to make sound. Tony realized that every muscle in the kid’s body was tensed. 

 

“Relax, bud. You’re not hit. She didn’t hit you. She’s dead. They’re all dead. We’re gonna get you out, now. Can you relax so you can breathe?”

 

Tony watched as Peter made a deliberate attempt to loosen his muscles. After a few seconds, Peter choked out, “I did it.”

 

Tony brushed his thumb over Peter’s cheek and didn’t ask for him to elaborate. Tony dismissed the soldiers entering the room in the background. Rhodey would handle them.

 

“I killed them, Mister Stark.”

 

Tony’s smile wavered. “Kid, what? What are you talking about?”

 

“I’m s–” Peter hiccuped. “So sorry. I made Ross mad and he took the others away and I think he killed them.”

 

Tony’s heart sank. There had been others here?

 

“Y-Yeah, the others were, um…” Oh. Tony had spoken out loud, then. Peter continued, “the Avengers that were in hiding. Ross made them disappear and it was ‘cause I was being disobedient.”

 

“You met the Avengers?”

 

Peter was shamefaced and wouldn’t meet Tony’s eyes. “Ross kept us in the same cell block. They were r-really nice to me and I prom-I promise I didn’t mean to kill them–”

 

Peter kept talking, but Tony couldn’t hear him for a second. The pardoned Avengers said that they hadn’t seen or anyone else on the Raft. Well, Peter had clearly met them.

 

Tony pushed the anger away. It was distracting him. His kid was crying in front of him about dead people who weren’t dead and even if they had been it wouldn’t have been his fault.

 

“No, no, Peter. You didn’t kill anyone. You didn’t do anything wrong. They’re alive. I promise they’re alive. I’ve talked to them. Ross lied. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

 

Peter stared at Tony uncomprehendingly. 

 

“Peter?” Tony shifted his position. 

 

His heart stopped in his chest when Peter’s eyes didn’t follow him.

Chapter Text



“What’s wrong with him, exactly?”

 

Peter sent Tony a look. Don’t talk like I’m not here. Tony sent Peter a severe look in return.

 

“You’ll have to be more specific, Stark. There’s a lot going on here,” Miss Cho said flatly. Peter could tell she was angry. He didn’t like it.

 

“Okay, fine, whatever. His voice. He talked to me yesterday and then the-the-the shock thing happened and then he was out and he hasn’t talked to me since waking up. He hasn’t talked to anyone.”

 

“It could be psychological–” 

 

Peter shook his head vehemently. Miss Cho gave him a depleted look.

 

“Then we won’t know until we examine him.”

 

“He needs to sleep first.”

 

“He needs to be checked over first.”

 

Mister Stark swallowed a growl in the back of his throat. “How fast can we make it?”

 

“It’ll be faster if you can get me the reports they wrote.”

 

Mister Stark squeezed Peter’s hand and looked at him something foreign and unreadable turning in his eyes. “Is it okay if I go to get those reports? It should take about twenty minutes.”

 

No. Absolutely not. Never leave.

 

Peter nodded.

 

Peter’s fingers twitched where his hand rested in Mister Stark’s, but he couldn’t do much more. He figured it was because his tendons hadn’t quiet grown back, which made sense––he’d barely been off the Raft for 18 hours.

 

After passing out, an SO team took Peter, Mister Stark, and Colonel Rhodes to a facility in South Korea. Apparently the Raft was somewhere in the Pacific and was closer to Asia than to the U.S. Mister Stark, Colonel Rhodes, and Miss Cho had yeeted to his location straightway (Peter chose not to think of what might have happened had they left even half a second later). After that, the flight to Seoul was barely three hours. Peter had woken up an hour in. 

 

The world came into blurred motion. Peter squinted and blinked. It looked like he had his vision today. Hallelujah.

 

Silhouettes hovered over him. Blink and squint. Huh. That guy’s goatee looked kinda like Mister Stark’s...The guards weren’t allowed facial hair, were they? Regulations. So he was hallucinating. Peter let out a low chuckle, hardly audible to himself aside from a wheeze. Weird. He could have sworn he had it back again...Wait, when had he been allowed to talk? The woman. then the X-ray and the gun and– Shit! He had seen–Which meant–Mister Stark! This was Mister Stark!

 

Wait, wait. Wait. He had to be sure. If he was hallucinating, then it wouldn’t be the first time. Sit up, idiot, MJ scoffed. Good idea. Sit up and look around and if you are hallucinating and you just unknowingly resisted personell, then who the fuck are you to care if you get a beating? Right. It didn’t matter.

 

Peter tried to pull himself up but quickly realized he was on his side. Shit. Not a good position to be in if he was wrong, ‘cause being on his side meant it was more likely that they were doing spinal surgery and the last time he moved during spinal surgery a needle broke off and got stuck between his vertebrae...Yeah, he wasn’t super eager to repeat that little adventure.

 

C’mon, Parker, focus up. Spider-sense. No one behind you. Go for it. Peter moved to sit up, barely manageable with his arms buckled behind him and his abdominal muscles murdered from starvation and exhaustion. Then a hand on his shoulder was pushing him back down. Damn it. The Mister Stark look alike. And, fuck, they really did look alike. Maybe it really was…

 

“...” Tony. Peter moved his lips and winced at the rough tug of air at the mutilated tissue in his throat. But no sound. No voice. The hell? Hadn’t his vocal cords grown back? 

 

Turns out, it didn’t matter. The look alike crouched down to level with Peter. “Hey there, Pete. You waking up? It’s me. It’s Tony. I’m here.”

 

And just like that, every doubt in Peter’s mind dissolved.

 

Tony. Mister Stark.

 

God fucking dammit, why couldn’t his stupid fucking throat work?

 

“Peter? Can you talk to me?” Peter shook his head weakly. I’m sorry. Mister Stark nodded back. “It’s okay. You don’t have to. We can figure that all out later. How about we get these cuffs off, huh?”

 

Peter blinked and nodded, sure he was going to cry. Instead, he surprised himself with a small yawn. 

 

“God, that is really fucking precious,” another voice said gruffly. Mister Rhodey! He was still here! “One adorable kid you got there, Tones.”

 

“Don’t I know it,” Mister Stark said softly. A blush warmed Peter’s cheeks. He didn’t really feel adorable. He was cuffed and starved and disgusting. Wait, the doctor had taken his shorts, so why did his legs–A blanket! They gave him a blanket! A big one, with heavy stuffing and soft fabric.

 

“Let’s get you turned the other direction.” Soft, warm, gloveless hands maneuvered Peter onto his back by his shoulders and knees, and then a little further so that he was no on his left side, facing the wall of the––well, Peter supposed it must have been a jet. 

 

God, this was surreal.

 

“Looks like vibranium. Call up the Princess. I don’t know what the hell kind of lock mechanism I’m looking at and I don’t have the energy to figure it out.”

 

Peter started to drift a little bit. He was warm and on his way out. Mister Stark’s touch was the strongest reassurance of safety, and with every passing minute, a component of his bindings was removed. The gloves over his hands. The handcuffs. The socks over his feet. The cuffs around his ankles. When Mister Stark began to work on the metal around his neck, Peter’s breathing quickened, just a little bit. But then Mister Stark started to hum and Peter could remember without seeing his face that it was Mister Stark, not some...not one of the doctors, or the guards, or-or anyone else who had–

 

Click.

 

Peter inhaled deeply as Mister Stark peeled the metal off of and out of Peter’s skin. It hurt like hell. But it was gone. Peter shuffled. Mister Stark realized what he was trying to do and helped Peter turn his back to the wall of the jet. Peter’s hands clambered for Mister Stark’s arms. The man grunted a soft “move over, bed hog” and settled next to Peter on the cot. He pulled the thick duvet up to Peter’s shoulders. They began to cry together.

 

After that, Miss Cho had taken care of the most threatening health problems on the jet, the foremost of which were dehydration and malnourishment. The raft doctors did their jobs well enough that nothing was even really too threatening, so Miss Cho hooked him up to an IV and he was good to go for the duration of the flight.

 

After landing at Miss Cho’s lab, Mister Stark and a lanky male nurse washed him. He had been rescued naked, since the last doctor decided he didn’t need the basketball shorts. Peter was grateful to be gifted with clean, full, warm, soft, modest clothing. Sweatpants and that hoodie-shirt mix thing. It was the best thing he had ever felt, especially considering that his “uniform” had been absolute hell on his senses.

 

And now, they had been landed an hour and a half. It wasn’t long after that when Mister Stark had tried to talk with him in earnest. That was when the man started to get worried about Peter not talking.

 

Peter, of course, knew exactly what was wrong. His very new , very delicate vocal cords had almost finished growing back. Then the stupid doctor had made him talk, and then Peter had gotten curious and talked some more, and then Mister Stark and Colonel Rhodes had rescued them and he couldn’t help himself...yeah. His voice hadn’t been ready for that yet.

 

Not like he had any way of telling them that, either.

 

Peter’s hand slipped out of Mister Stark’s as the man stood and stalked out of the room. Peter felt cold. He focused in on the folds of his clothing against his skin. He really didn’t want to dissociate in front of Miss Cho, but he wasn’t sure he’d be able to avoid it.

 

Miss Cho took off her white coat before sitting in a rolling chair and wheeling close to Peter. Peter smiled faintly. Rolling office chairs. Classic.

 

“Let’s start out with your voice. How about that?” Miss Cho tilted Peter’s chin up. Strangely enough, it barely made him feel uncomfortable. “If this is physical like you’re saying, then we should probably start by taking a look at your throat. Open.”

 

The world fizzled out for a second when Peter dropped his jaw and gagged lightly at the thing tapping the back of his throat.

 

Time stopped existing (did it even exist in the first place? No).

 

It condensed back into place when a warm hand rested on his cheek. That was confusing. None of the doctors were ever warm, and anyways, everyone in that place who had to touch him wore gloves so that they didn’t actually have to touch him because he was–

 

“Peter.”

 

His eyes flicked up and locked onto a set just like his own.

 

Miss Cho.

 

“Are you with me Peter?”

 

Peter shrugged his shoulders. It was all he could do.

 

“Did you go somewhere else for a second”

 

A tentative nod.

 

“Flashback?”

 

Nod again.

 

“Did I do something to cause it?”

 

Peter gulped. He thought so. He indicated it with another inclination of his head.

 

“Okay.” Miss Cho was gentle in a weird way. More practical. “We can talk about that later. Right now I want to talk about what I just saw in your throat.”

 

Okay, then talk.

 

“Your vocal cords are severely damaged, far from usable. But you already knew that. Can I get you a tablet so you can tell me about it?”

 

Peter shook his head.

 

“No? Why no?”

 

Peter glanced at his wrists helplessly and raised his shaking arms, letting his hands flop uselessly. 

 

Miss Cho’s eyes widened. She seamlessly snatched his left arm out of the air and brought it down to rest on Peter’s bed. She bent his hand back and ran a careful finger over the inside of his wrist.

 

“Tendons gone? Seriously ?”

 

Yeah.

 

Miss Cho seemed a little lost for words. “I...we’ll get on designing some synthetic tendons. Don’t worry about those hands, Mister Parker. We’ll get you sorted out.”

 

They’ll come back. They always grow back. God, this was frustrating.

 

“Okay, so you’ve lost your voice and you can’t use your hands. Any bright ideas on how you’re supposed to communicate with us for the next couple of days?”

 

Peter huffed and looked away.

 

“Fine. We’ll look at that later. Now that we have that figured out, I want to take a look at your neck. Chin up.”

 

Peter tilted his head back and gazed at the ceiling as Miss Cho shone a penlight over the mauled flesh. Or at least, Peter imagined it was mauled. It felt mauled. Judging by the way Miss Cho’s eyes softened and glistened for half a second, that was probably accurate.

 

“Shock collar?” she muttered. Peter nodded. “How long?” He lifted his arms and, pointedly ignoring his lifeless hands, held them far apart across his body. All of it.

 

“It won’t need surgery to heal, but I imagine that you’ll want cosmetic surgery once it does.”

 

Peter swallowed. Way to reassure a guy, Miss Cho. He wanted Mister Stark.

 

“What’s going on over here?” Miss Cho grabbed his bicep and gently pressed her thumb  over a depressed area in his flesh. Peter choked od his breath and tried to stiffen. It was so much harder to stay still when he wasn’t locked down.

 

“Did that hurt?” Peter nodded and Miss Cho grimaced. “Try to let me know if I’m hurting you. I won’t be upset with you for reacting.”

 

Peter’s head twitched towards the door. Miss Cho followed his gaze. A few seconds later, Mister Stark appeared in the doorway.

 

“Got those records. God, the Raft is so much easier to hack once you know where it actually is.” Peter snorted as Mister Stark handed a tablet to Miss Cho. She started swiping through it, eyes barely flitting over a page to evaluate it before moving on. Time to see what’s up. As much as Peter didn’t want to admit it, he realized that he probably didn’t remember half of what the doctors had done to him.

 

The room was silent as she sorted through the files. Tony’s hand found Peter’s. Miss Cho was unreadable. Carefully suppressed twitches around her eyes, forcefully relaxed lips, deliberately even breaths.

 

Nevermind. She wasn’t unreadable. She was just hiding.

 

Then, finally, “Stark, with me. Stay here, Mister Parker.” Tony squeezed his hand and then they were both gone, leaving Peter alone. Again.




“Did you read through these at all yet?”

 

“No, I was rushing to get them to you. It’s bad, right?”

 

“‘It’s bad,’ he asks. God, Stark, just...just look.” She shoved the tablet into his hands. “I suspected they interrogated him or-or tested him for a few things. We all did. But this…They tested everything. Everything.”

 

Tony looked down at the tablet. An index. A masterlist.

 

Introduction (IX)

 

  • Subject Information and History (XV)
  • Circumstance of Research (XXVII)

 

 

Literature Review (1)

 

  • Defining Terms (4)
  • Historical Cases of Enhancement (12) 
  • Historical Cases of Genetic Redesign (26)
  • OsCorp (35)
  • Subject Interests (48)
  • Purpose of Study (51)

 

 

Method (55)

 

  • Timeline (57) 
  • Equipment (74)
  • Components (90)
  • Sampling (91)
  • Genetics Review (94)
  • Process Observation (98)
  • Means of Control (100)
  • Substance Interaction (102)
  • Subject Activity (123)
  • Limitations (133)

 

 

Preliminary Sampling (145), Dependent Sampling (302)

 

  • Circulatory 
  • Integumentary
  • Endocrine
  • Muscular
  • Skeletal
  • Nervous
  • Endocannabinoid
  • Respiratory
  • Digestive/Excretory
  • Reproductive
  • Renal/Urinary
  • Hematopoietic
  • Immune/Lymphatic
  • Psychological
  • Additional

 

 

Genetics Review (575)

 

  • Theoretical Primary
  • Instigator of Change
  • Current Anomalies

 

 

Process Observation

 

  • Circulatory
  • Integumentary
  • Endocrine
  • Muscular
  • Skeletal
  • Nervous
  • Endocannabinoid
  • Respiratory
  • Digestive/Excretory
  • Reproductive
  • Renal/Urinary
  • Hematopoietic
  • Immune/Lymphatic
  • Psychological
  • Additional

 

 

Analysis

 

  • Onset of Psychosis
  • Interactions of Psychology and Physical Data
  • Human Comparative

 

 

Unfinished

 

  • Tissue Decomposition
  • Unique Bacteria Cultures
  • Exploration of Regrowth
  • Neuropathic
  • Future Directions
  • Interaction with Radioactivity

 

 

Tony was breathless.

 

Hundreds and hundreds of hours of research on his kid. Sitting in his hand. He wanted to vomit.

 

Sampling.

 

Means of control.

 

Reproductive.

 

Onset of Psychosis.

 

Tissue Decomposition.

 

Radioactivity.

 

“This can’t be real,” he murmured, the words a ghost on his lips. Helen lay a hand on his shoulder. It’s real. “We...We need to...Did you figure out why he’s not talking?”

 

Helen just looked tired. “It looks like there was extreme damage to his vocal cords. Whatever happened, it’s mostly healed, but Peter won’t be able to use his voice for another few days since he used it before it was completely healed.”

 

“Okay. Okay, yeah. Fine. Lemme find a stylus–”

 

Helen grabbed Tony’s wrist as he turned to run towards the luggage. “That won’t work, either. He can’t use his hands.”

 

Tony furrowed his brow. “Can’t use his hands? What happened? I mean besides the obvious.”

 

“They cut the tendons in his wrists,” she said flatly. “They were completely removed.”

 

Tony blinked. He couldn’t quite...what? Cut the...Cut the tendons. The tendons . They were gone . “Oh, Pete…” Tony shut his eyes mournfully. This wasn’t getting better. “We need to make him something. He can’t...He needs his hands, Helen. You don’t even know. He needs his hands. If he–If he can’t–” Tony’s voice cracked. He swallowed thickly and Helen nodded.

 

“We’ll start working on it. Until then, do you have any ideas as to how we could more effectively communicate with Peter?”

 

“I can read lips.” Tony had known how to for years, ever since he learned that Clint had hearing loss. He could do sign language too, but that wasn’t much use here. Not yet. “Friday can proof check my translations.”

 

“Alright. That’s at least something.”




Peter sat straight up. They were coming back and now they probably knew what was going on with him. Which meant it was time to go to a surgical lab. Or maybe they’d just work on him right here. Or maybe they weren’t going to work on him at all yet.

 

Mister Stark and Miss Cho re-entered the room, both looking a little flustered. They were back. Peter’s brows scrunched nearly imperceptibly, his lips twitching upwards in a smile. Don’t make faces at me. Insect. Peter’s expression neutralized. 

 

“Alrighty, Pete. We have a plan.” Mister Stark leaned forwards from his bedside, his hands thrust into the pockets of his sweatshirt. “The file on you is huge. We have a few lab assists looking over it figure out what we need to focus on but we’d rather get started right away. Sound good?”

 

Peter nodded.

 

“Okay. We’re gonna have to communicate, so just mouth out your words and I’ll read them. Does that work for you?”

 

Tentatively, Peter pulled back the muscles in his cheeks. It was clumsy. Forming the shape of the sound without actually making it was surprisingly difficult.

 

Relief flushed in Mister Stark’s face. “Yeah? Okay. Helen, you wanna go ahead?” 

 

Miss Cho nodded. “From your standpoint and memory, what’s the most pressing thing we should look at? Perhaps something time sensitive?”

 

Oh, now that was a question. There were so many things that Peter could have said. The shortness of breath, the scarring that he knew would just worsen the longer they waited to look at it, the vague pain that had tormented him so long that he almost wasn’t sure if he could feel it. But one problem rose to the top of his concerns.

 

Mister Stark’s breath hitched. “He says he thinks he has radiation poisoning...They were doing X-rays on his lungs. He’s worried about organ damage...He isn’t sure whether or not we should be near him.”

 

Miss Cho took a seat in her rolling chair. “If you’re not feeling sick yet, it’s unlikely that it’s major. You might show some signs of radiation sickness in a week or two. Nausea, bleeding, hair falling out, the works. Keep an eye on it. You’re safe to be around. As far as organ damage, I’ll run some tests to try to predict any problems and we can go from there. That means I’ll need tissue samples.”

 

Peter closed his eyes for a second. So they would have to do more surgery. 

 

“Anything else we should look at when we open you up?”

 

Breathing is a little tough.

 

“He says he’s having a hard time breathing.”

 

“Alright. We can check that out as well. What should I grab for analgesics?”

 

Peter stopped moving for a second as he remembered. Mister Stark and Mister Banner had developed a painkiller that actually worked. It was shit that the government doctors couldn’t pull something similar together or at least steal the recipe from Mister Stark like they had stolen him , but he had it now. He could sleep during surgery. He wouldn’t have to fight against magnets or force himself to settle down as a knife buried into his side or wait for someone to hit him hard enough to knock him out because his head was strapped  down and he couldn’t do it himself.




Tony froze when he saw Peter crying. He broke off of the conversation he was having with Cho and immediately moved to the center of the kid’s line of sight.

 

“I’m right here, Peter. You with us?”

 

The kid just stared off, looking towards Tony but not at Tony. Shit. He recalled the index. The heading titled “Means of Control” with the subsection “Substance Interactions” pushed to the front of his mind. The kid was scared, maybe having a flashback or panic attack or a million things–

 

“C’mon, bud. You have to talk to me. Can you hear me?” Tony could barely recognize himself as the person speaking. His voice was steady, easy, controlled. There was absolutely no way that it was himself talking. Except it somehow was.

 

Peter blinked and drew his eyes up to meet Tony’s. Tears still tracked down his face except he didn’t really look scared and Tony had no fucking clue what the hell was happening in his kid’s head–

 

“Can you hear me?” Tony asked again. Peter nodded and Tony caught his breath. “I know you might not want the drugs, but, Pete, we gotta operate.”

 

Peter shooked his head and silently annunciated his thoughts. Tony muttered aloud the interpretation with hardly any thought. “ I want the analgesics. Thank you so much– Pete, wait. Wait. First of all, don’t thank us for that. It’s a given. Second, I…” Tony pursed his lips. “I’m confused. What just happened there? You went away for a sec. Can you fill me in?”

 

Peter moved to wipe his cheeks with his wrists and Tony reached out to brush the tears away with his thumbs. Peter’s eyes darted up to his and he gave a watery smile before Tony had to translate again.

 

“I’m just really glad to have them. I didn’t…” Tony stopped midway through Peter’s sentence. He didn’t want to say it aloud. Didn’t want to acknowledge it, didn’t want the room to hear it. But he heard it. Peter lived it.

 

I didn’t get them on the Raft.

 

“Oh, Pete…” Suddenly, Peter seemed to realize what he had said and turned away. Tony swallowed.

 

“He’s fine. He’s not afraid of the sedatives. He just got stuck in his thoughts. It wasn’t...anything like that. He’s okay.”

 

Helen glanced between the two of them. She seemed aware that she wasn’t fully in the loop and was clearly miffed about it, but she decided not to press. 

 

“In that case, if there are no more questions, we should get started ASAP. Do you guys feel comfortable with a vetted surgeon in the operating room?”

 

“What would you recommend?” Tony asked. 

 

Helen raised a brow and said dryly, “I would recommend my team here in Seoul. But you already knew that.” Tony pinched his lips. As inconvenient as it was, he just couldn’t trust anyone with Peter. They could be working for Ross, or try to take Peter back, or figure out his identity as a mutant or as Spider-Man.

 

“Strange. We can bring in Strange.”

 

“You wouldn’t prefer Banner?”

 

“You would?”

 

“I didn’t say that.”

 

“Banner’s not that kind of doctor.”

 

“Fine. Contact Strange. I’ll prep the op room.”




Half an hour later, Tony held Peter up by the shoulders as they struggled to undress him and wriggle him into a hospital gown. Tony wasn’t sure what the worst part of that experience was. Maybe it was the fact that Peter could barely stand. Maybe it was that Peter couldn’t use his hands. Maybe it was that he was covered head to toe in scars and bruises that Tony hadn’t really paid attention to until now. Maybe it was that Peter’s toned muscles had melted so much that he could see bone. Maybe it was that Peter looked completely unabashed at being totally naked in front of Tony. The Peter who Tony was familiar with would much have rather collapsed then be in this situation.

 

Nah, Tony decided. It was definitely the scars.

 

The one around Peter’s neck was the most prominent and, Tony was sure, would haunt both of them. Purple burns and mangled skin. The hole punches and slabs of tissue carved out of his skin all across his body. The curved lines of raised white skin that traced the circles under his eyes. The sections of depressed flesh over his major muscle groups and pinpoints of bubbling scar tissue along his spine. More mangled skin around his wrists, ankles, the corners of his mouth. A thick pink line down the center of his chest and several more arcing across the gaunt surface of his stomach. More white lines over his wrists and down the front of his throat.

 

He knew the kid had insane healing abilities, but it was probably hindered by exhaustion, malnourishment, and the sheer amount of healing that needed to take place. Tony couldn’t find the optimism to entertain the idea that all of the scars would go away.

 

And those were only the ones that he could see during the handful of seconds before he pulled the hospital gown over Peter’s head.

 

Tony carefully guided Peter to the next room, where Strange and Cho waited with an operating table. Moving his left arm from around Peter’s shoulders to beneath his back and his right arm to underneath his knees, Tony lifted the kid up with far too much ease and gently deposited him onto the table. Peter shuffled around, trying to settle against the cool, disinfected leather.

 

Tony moved to the washroom, where he disinfected and pulled on fresh scrubs, a face mask, and gloves. He remembered that this had always been the position he least desired to be in and sighed. Peter was just visible from the indoor window. Strange and Cho were probably speaking to him about the details of the procedure. Tony left the washroom gratefully. Except for grabbing the holographic tablet earlier, he hadn’t been away from Peter’s side at all.

 

They removed Peter’s hospital gown again. Per Rhodey’s suggestion, they decided it would be best to take pictures of Peter’s injuries before going in for another operation. As annoying and tedious and uncomfortable as it was for everyone, it was essential evidence. Peter was essential evidence and the kid knew it too. After, Strange and Cho quickly marked up Peter’s chest for incision. Then he was back in his hospital gown and good to go. Together, the three of them wheeled Peter to the operating room. A broad room of white walls and blue light. Different than the grey walls and orange light of the Raft, Tony noted with satisfaction. 

 

While Strange and Cho did a final check over their equipment, Tony connected Peter to a new IV line and spoke to him softly.

 

“You doing okay?” Peter nodded for what felt like the thousandth time this morning. God, Tony was going to search out every bastard who had hurt his kid and then fucking destroy those who were responsible specifically for stealing his voice.

 

It ached that fear, no matter how deep down Peter tried to bury it, was still plainly visible in his features.

 

“Alright, Mister Parker, we’re going to infuse your super-drugs,” Helen said. Tony appreciated the light and casual energy to her words. Peter did too, if the way his shoulders minutely relaxed was anything to go by. Helen slid the needle into the infusion site on the IV bag. “Count backwards from fifteen for me. You’re going to start feeling tired and that’s perfectly alright. Tony will be here the entire time.” Tony gently grabbed Peter’s hand in a show of agreement.

 

“I got you, kid.”

 

Peter took a shaky breath and closed his eyes. His lips ghosted the numbers.

 

Fifteen.

 

Fourteen.

 

Thirteen.

 

Twelve.

 

Eleven.

 

Ten.

 

Nine.

 

Eight.

 

Seven.

 

Six.

 

Five.

 

Four.

 

Three.

 

Two.

 

One.

 

...

 

Peter’s eyes cracked open one by one and found Tony, asking the question that he himself had.

 

“Shouldn’t that have knocked him out?”

 

“Yes,” Strange answered bluntly. Helen gave him a look.

 

“It might need a little longer to work through his system enough to overcome his metabolism. Go again, Peter. From fifteen.”

 

Fifteen. Fourteen. Thirteen. Twelve. Eleven. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.

 

Shit. Peter was still awake. His eyes darted between the adults hovering around him. He was nervous. Peter tapped Tony where their hands still rested together. Why?

 

“He wants to know why this is happening.”

 

“We all would, Stark,” Strange said curtly.

 

“Not helping,” Tony growled.

 

“Boys, knock it off and keep it together. Work the problem.”

 

“Is there any way that Peter’s drug tolerance was increased in prison?” Strange asked.

 

Cho shook her head, hands clasped tightly around a tablet. Tony was sure that that would soon be the only way he would remember Doctor Helen Cho: stressed out and searching for solutions. Not a bad look, honestly. “Unlikely. From what we understand, all the drugs they tried to use on him were completely ineffective.”

 

“What about when they first brought him in?” Strange interrupted. “Surely he wasn’t conscious.”

 

Tony turned to the kid. “Peter?”

 

Blunt force.

 

“Ah. They knocked him out.”

 

Helen propped her gloved hands on her hips. “Well, shit. Sorry for all the hype, Mister Parker. Looks like we have to wait a little longer.”

 

Tony caught a sideways glimpse of Peter’s face and his heart nearly broke. The kid looked so damn disappointed. Like someone had given him a kitten and then it immediately got hit by a car. Dark analogy? Yeah. But it was appropriate. And yet, he still looked so relieved that they were no longer going on with the operation. That was probably excellent news to Peter.

 

God. The bar really was on the ground, wasn’t it.

 

Tony brought the back of Peter’s hand up and rubbed his chin against it. “Why don’t you try to crash for a bit, Pete? We’re just gonna hand out in here and work on how to drug you up to your eyes. Does that sound okay?”

 

Peter nodded tiredly. It vaguely occurred to him that this was going to be his first night of real sleep since he got snagged by the feds. He wasn’t going to pass out from pain or get knocked out or even get drugged to sleep, thanks to this. He was going to fall asleep.

 

The world around him swayed and the sounds of chattering saviors blurred until it was all gone, and it was quiet enough that Peter could sleep.


It was all for nothing.